Make us your home page

The Buzz

From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

GOP: Don't buy the Democrat's Fla absentee ballot boasting



Democrats so far this year have dramatically cut into the Republicans' traditional advantage in absentee ballots. Obama's Florida campaign director made the point in a memo yesterday, noting that in 2008 the GOP had an absentee ballot lead of nearly 250,000 at this point in the race, while this year that lead is less than 62,000:

"In 2008, Republicans built up a huge advantage in vote-by-mail which Democrats obliterated during in-person early vote to win the state by 3 percentage points.  In 2012, Republicans have a much more difficult task ahead since they have already ceded two-thirds of the vote-by-mail advantage they started with four years ago."
Republicans say this argument is bunk. The Democrats may have a rise in absentee, mail-in votes, their argument goes, but their early vote totals will be way down because so many former early voters have become absentee voters.

"The Dems are simply shifting these high propensity EV voters to AB – it’s not a sign of increased enthusiasm or an enhanced ground operation and it will dilute their historic advantage in EV. In contrast we are focusing on low propensity voters," RNC spokesman Matt Connelly e-mailed Buzz
Of 856,397 registered Democrats who have requested or returned an absentee ballot to date, 193,686 of them  - 23 percent - were early voters in ’08. Of 907,572 registered Republicans who have requested or returned an absentee ballot to date, 119,923 of them were early voters in ’08 - 13 percent.

Democrats don't dispute they want to convert as many former early voters as possible into absentee voters - because the legislature shaved off five days of early voting. In 2008, about 30 percent of all early votes cast in 2008 came in the first five days of early voting.

Nonetheless, it's hard to see how the Democrats aren't gaining significant ground. Even if a third of the Democratic absentee votes cast were by former early voters, that leaves about 640,000 Democratic absentee votes that weren't prior early voters.

The GOP notes that combining absentee and early votes in 2008, Democrats had a 7 percentage point lead, while Republicans this year are ahead.

“Numbers don’t lie," said RNC spokesman Matt Connell. "The Obama campaign is behind and it’s clear that both their poor showing on the ground and dropping poll numbers in Florida have them worried. The Obama campaign’s assertion is as weak as their candidate’s record as President.”

Trouble is, that logic makes no sense. How can you look at combined absentee and early votes four years ago, and compare them to the numbers so far this year when early voting hasn't even started? Democrats may well wind up with fewer early votes this year, but it sure won't be zero.

“Given Mitt Romney’s willingness to say anything to win, even if it’s not true, no one should be surprised that Romney’s campaign is pushing lies and distortions to hide the fact that Floridians are casting their ballots in record numbers in support of President Obama," said Obama Florida campaign spokesman Eric Jotkoff. "The fact is that at this point in 2008 according to Florida Division of Election data, Republicans in Florida had requested 13% more of the vote by mail ballots than Democrats, while today that gap is down to 2%. Florida Democrats have returned 40,000 more ballots than at this point in 2008, while Republicans have bested their 2008 numbers by just 3,000. Clearly the Romney campaign is using the same sketchy math that says their candidate can offer $5 trillion in tax cuts favoring the wealthy without exploding the deficit or requiring tax hikes on the middle class to explain their path to victory in Florida.”

The Romney campaign says it is focused on unlikely voters at this point, while the Obama campaign is pulling in early votes from Democrats all but certain to vote anyway.

But the Democratic organizing group America's Voice says it has analyzed the votes so far and that's not true.

"While most of the folks from both parties that have signed up to vote by mail are likely voters, in the battle to turn out less likely voters the Democrats have an almost 100,000 voter advantage," said Josh Geise, Florida director for America Votes.

He sent along the following chart (80 to 100 is considered a likely voter.  20-80 is considered a turnout target for America Votes, 0-20 are registered voters that are not likely to vote).



[Last modified: Wednesday, October 17, 2012 6:38pm]


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours