Sabermetrician Nate Silver has Ohio, Virginia, and Nevada as the three states most likely to determine the outcome of tomorrow’s presidential election. In my home state, Nevada, Silver determines Obama has 90% chance of winning. While the likelihood of an Obama victory may be high, the margin of victory will undoubtedly be tighter than 2008 when Obama carried the state by 12 points. The Republicans have held ground in their share of registered voters but have drastically increased their early voting turnout. Despite intense efforts by Obama’s volunteer organizers in the state, it seems the Republicans have the clear edge in voter enthusiasm.The latest poll has Obama up four points on Romney.
The story of Nevada’s electorate is really a tale of two cities: Reno and Las Vegas. The counties housing those cities, Washoe and Clark, make up roughly 90% of active registered voters. In 2008, Democrat voters in those two counties comprised 52% of the early votes and Republicans amounted for only 31%. At that time, John McCain would have needed 75%-80% of independent voters and 12%-15% of Democrats in order to win the election. This time around in Washoe and Clark counties, Democrats have accounted for only 46% of early votes while Republicans have cast 35%. The shift is even more apparent when you consider the fact that 60% of registered Republican voters turned out early in 2012 compared with only 39% in 2008. If the votes were counted today, Romney would only need 45% of Independent voters, 15% of Democratic voters, and 90% of his own party to pull off a victory.
The most likely reality in Nevada is a victory for Obama by 5 points or less. This, of course, would be a much tighter outcome than 2008. The campaign itself has been different as advertisement spending has mushroomed to almost $50 million (up from $15 million in 2008). Republicans have spent 26% more money than Democrats with 62% of GOP money coming from Super PACs. In 2008, the Obama campaign had a commanding lead on spending, almost 60% more than Republicans. The ground game in Nevada has also been intense and with contrasting tactics from both sides. The Romney campaign’s most visible presence has been large banners at busy intersections and robocalls to persuade voters. In contrast, Obama’s campaign has amassed thousands of volunteers to knock on doors and make personal calls. By one account, those volunteers visited more than 100,000 households with one or more uncast vote on the last day of early voting alone. The Romney campaign has been much less successful at deploying the personal touch despite paying staffing agencies to recruit canvassers for $17 dollars an hour. Nonetheless, early voting results point to the fact that Republican turnout has come much easier and the state will likely remain light blue (leaning Obama) until the final votes are counted.