Democrats have also done a better job of registering new voters, although Obama strategists note that they still have to make sure they show up at the polls.
By the time Election Day arrives on Nov. 6, it is expected that more than one-third of voters will have already cast their ballots.
Early voting was a critical factor in Obama’s victory four years ago. In at least four states — Colorado, Florida, Iowa and North Carolina — he had such a lead built up that he won despite losing among those who waited until Election Day to vote, according to an analysis by the Associated Press.
Romney’s campaign is determined not to let that happen again and says it is narrowing Obama’s early-voting advantage in some states.
In Iowa, for instance, Romney strategists think that Obama will have to have a 100,000-vote lead from early and absentee voting to win against a GOP surge on Election Day. “Right now, they’re not on pace to do that,” Beeson said.
Both campaigns put out memos last week claiming an advantage among early voters in Ohio. But it is hard to tell which is right, considering that Romney’s figures are based on presumptions about absentee-ballot requests in a state where voters do not register by party and Obama’s are based on public polls of those who have voted early and absentee.
Michael McDonald, a George Mason University professor who studies voting trends, looked at the data and determined that while Democrats have an early-voting advantage in Ohio, the Republicans are not being caught off-guard, as they were four years ago.
“Looking across the Ohio counties, it appears that early voting is up everywhere across the state,” he wrote last week in the Huffington Post. “Both campaigns are hard at work through the extended early voting period.”
Still, no one disputes that Obama — who did not have a primary to contend with — got a much earlier start on his ground operation and has built a far more extensive infrastructure. For instance, his campaign opened its office in Chillicothe, Ohio, late last year — nine months earlier in the cycle than it did in 2008.
“Are they better organized than John McCain? Probably,” said Jeremy Bird, Obama’s field director. “Are we better organized than we were in 2008? I’m sure of it.”
Amy Gardner and Philip Rucker contributed to this report.