Latest Presidential Polls: Florida Early and Absentee Ballots Could Swing Election For Obama

Going into Election Day, some pollsters like Mason-Dixon’s Brad Coker have already placed Florida in former Governor Mitt Romney’s column. Citing the governor’s improving polling data, Coker has said that “Mitt Romney has pretty much nailed down Florida.”  However, before adding the state’s 29 electoral votes to the “R” column, the Romney campaign may want to take a look at the early vote and absentee numbers and the impressive and growing lead the president has built. For the record, the most recent polls show the two candidates in a virtual tie.

To date, over 2.2 million Floridians have cast ballots for President Obama or Romney. That translates to nearly 18% of registered voters in Florida that have already voted for their preferred candidate for president. The larger concern for the Romney forces was pointed out yesterday by the Miami Herald’s Marc Caputo who wrote, “If this presidential election is like the others, 75% of the registered voters will cast ballots. So instead of 18% of the electorate having voted, there's a chance it could be a quarter by now.” In other words, by the time Election Day comes around, more than one in four voters will have already cast ballots, with a majority of those ballots cast by Democrats.

If Romney wasn’t worried about those figures, here are the numbers that should keep the Romney brain trust up at night; as of Monday, just 48 hours after early voting started, more Democrats had voted in Florida than Republicans. In 2008, this feat took six days to accomplish. Over 1.4 million people had cast absentee ballots and more than 815,000 people have cast ballots in person during the early voting period that began Saturday. Of the 2.2 million total votes cast, 965,360 were cast by Democrats, 925,182 were cast by Republicans, and 363,261 were cast by independents. 

In 2008, Republicans in Florida bested Democrats in absentee ballots by 15 percentage points. At this point in that election, Republicans lead in absentee ballot request by over 246,000, but today, they only have a 40,000 ballot request lead. Fortunately in 2008, Democrats had the ability to turn out their voters during early voting, and Obama took the lead in overall votes cast going into Election Day. As we all know, he went on to win Florida, 51% to 48%.. 

An additional factor is the outstanding absentee ballot requests. These are voters who have requested absentee ballots, but who have yet to send their ballots back. Democrats currently have a two percentage point lead among this category. That means there are more Democratic absentee ballots outstanding than Republican ones, and this is another way for president to potentially pad his lead going into Election Day. It has been confirmed that the president’s campaign has become skilled at chasing down absentee ballots and getting their voters to vote early, and if these numbers are not scaring the Romney campaign, they should.

Although some recent polling numbers have given Romney a slight advantage in Florida, most polls show the lead within the margin of error. The true test to win Florida is the ground game, and Republicans have dominated ground operations in Florida for many years. However, the president has put together what his campaign touts as “the most sophisticated ground operation and voter targeting effort in political history.” If the current numbers continue, the president should have a larger lead going into November 6 than he did in 2008, which should be a cause for concern for Romney and the GOP in Florida, and their quest to 270 electoral votes and the presidency. 

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Justin Day

Justin Day is a Director at The Advocacy Group at Cardenas Partners (TAGCP). He brings nearly ten years of experience in the political and governmental fields to TAGCP, where he specializes in representing clients in front of local governments and the state legislature in Tallahassee. Mr. Day started his career working for Former Florida Education Commissioner Betty Castor’s U.S. Senate campaign, where he acted as the Trip Director and was responsible for the logistics of all travel for Mrs. Castor. Following the Castor campaign, Mr. Day was named the Executive Director of the Florida Mainstream Democratic Caucus (FMDC). As Executive Director, he was responsible for the day-to-day operations of the Caucus. This included: Managing call time with state Senators and House members, researching, developing and implementing fundraising plans, composing press releases, recruiting and consulting candidates for the state legislature, and organizing annual statewide conferences. When Mr. Day arrived at FMDC the organization had never raised more than $300,000 in any election cycle. After one cycle, Mr. Day was able to nearly quadruple the income to $1.1 million dollars. Due to the record number of contributions, the FMDC was able to participate in multiple state House and Senate races, winning a majority of them. In 2006, Mr. Day worked as a consultant for current Florida Democratic Party Chairman, Rod Smith’s Campaign for Governor. Mr. Day was the campaign coordinator for 35 counties in North Florida and the Panhandle. He developed and implemented the North Florida and Panhandle political outreach strategy, and worked with North Florida and Panhandle elected officials and community leaders to enhance Sen. Smith’s name recognition. Mr. Day assisted in shaping the campaign agenda and message for North Florida and the Panhandle In 2007, Florida Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink, asked Mr. Day to move to the Florida Democratic Party and act as her Director of Cabinet Affairs. While there, Mr. Day identified political and policy trends both within Florida and at the national level and was responsible for reporting these trends to the CFO and staff. Mr. Day acted as CFO Sink’s political director and was in charge of all fundraising operations for CFO Sink, raising over $1.3 million. Following his stint at the Florida Democratic Party, Mr. Day went to work for Alex Sink’s Campaign for Governor, where he begin the campaign as the Political Director. In this capacity, he helped secure important endorsements to ensure CFO Sink was the only Democratic candidate running for Governor. In late 2009, CFO Sink asked Mr. Day to move to the finance side of the campaign and concentrate on raising money from the business community. He went on to excel in this new role, raising nearly $10 million for the campaign from contributors throughout the country. Mr. Day has raised money and/or consulted with various campaigns including President Barack Obama, U.S. Senator Bill Nelson, Congresswoman Kathy Castor, former U.S. Representatives Allen Boyd and Suzanne Kosmas, Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer, Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn and many more. Mr. Day is active in national Democratic politics serving on President Barack Obama’s National Finance Committee, he is a National Chair for the Democratic National Committee’s Gen44 program, and is the Tampa Bay Region Finance Chairman for President Obama’s re-election campaign. Mr. Day is a graduate of Florida State University with a Bachelors Degree in International Affairs and a Masters Degree in Political Science. He is active in his community, having served on the boards of Connect Florida, Image of Change, and the Leon County Human Service Grant Review. He currently serves on the Big Bend Cares Board of Directors, Greater Tampa Chamber Public Policy Committee, and AMIKids Tampa, Inc. Board of Trustees.

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