There are two starkly different views of the race. President Obama’s team takes refuge in public state polling and declares it can pull out a close electoral vote win. Mitt Romney’s team looks at voter intensity, early voting and Romney’s lead among independents and concludes he will win. If you believe Obama and state polling, the electorate will look like 2008; if you take the other view, 2012 won’t resemble 2008.

Romney’s team is getting some confirmation from early voting reports, which suggest we are a far distance from 2008. Pew reports: “The Pew Research Center survey found that the race is even among all likely voters nationwide (47% Obama, 47% Romney). Unlike the last campaign, the race also is close among voters who say they have already voted. In the poll, conducted Oct. 24-28, 19% of likely voters say they have already voted; that is unchanged from the same week in the 2008 campaign (Oct. 23-26, 2008). Currently, Romney holds a seven-point edge among early voters (50% to 43%); because of the small sample, this lead is not statistically significant. At this point four years ago, Obama led John McCain by 19 points (53% to 34%) among early voters.”

Gallup finds Romney up among early voters by a similar margin (52 to 46 percent). In 2008 Obama had an advantage of 55 to 40 percent.

What about actual early voting?

In Virginia, Obama is also running well behind 2008. Dave Wasserman of Cook Political Reports tells us that early voting is down 13.6 percent in Obama strongholds and down only 1.7 percent in GOP strongholds.

In Colorado Republicans are ahead in early voting.

In Nevada Democrats retain an early voting advantage, but again the margin is substantially down from 2008.

In yesterday’s Romney campaign conference call, the campaign’s pollster and political director put out a raft of information:

In Florida, [Richard] Beeson noted that of 2 million early votes cast, Democrats held an edge by fewer than 40,000 ballots — a 70 percent drop from 2008. In Ohio, comparing county results in early voting from 2008 with those of today, turnout was significantly better for Republicans, he said. In Iowa, he said that Republicans prefer to vote on Election Day, and that Democrats need to bring an early voting lead of 130,000 to the polls on Election Day in order to win. Republicans are over-performing in early voting in 71 of 99 counties from 2008, making it less likely that Obama would reach the margin needed. Other swing states showed similar patterns, and Republicans seemed to be leading in early and absentee voting in Colorado. Beeson predicted “we will win on Election Day big” in North Carolina, which Obama has continued to avoid in recent weeks.

In sum, there is considerable evidence from both polling of and actual early voting that the political landscape portrayed in a number of state polls showing an Obama lead in swing states doesn’t exist. If that improvement in early voting holds up, Democrats should wonder if those state polls in which they have been investing so much hope are even in the 2012 election ballpark. We’ll find out next week.