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.