GOP Turnout Effort Tests Obama Campaign's Prowess

GOP Turnout Effort Tests Obama Campaign's Prowess

By Erin McPike - October 11, 2012

Republicans are narrowing Democrats' organizational advantage in critical swing states, but the latter say they are on track to improve upon President Obama's 2008 early-vote count.

Now that the election has moved full-throttle into get-out-the-vote mode, both campaigns are tracking the daily tabulation of absentee ballots requested in key battlegrounds along with the number of early votes already cast. In half of the most critical swing states -- Colorado, Florida and North Carolina -- Republicans have requested more absentee ballots than have their counterparts. And in Nevada, the two sides are nearly even.

Data is not available in every state, but the fact that Republicans are surpassing Democrats in half of the key states is significant largely because the president has such a robust and vaunted operation. The Democratic National Committee and Obama for America have spent the past four years setting up intricate networks of volunteers and call centers to try to swamp the opposition this fall, and incumbent presidents tend to have much larger and more efficient campaign operations throughout the country than do challengers.

Take Florida, where according to the most recent data from the secretary of state’s office, 841,941 Republicans already have requested absentee ballots compared with 768,072 Democrats. Numerically, it’s clear who is ahead. But the Obama camp points out that while both campaigns have improved upon their numbers from the last cycle, Democrats cut the deficit significantly from 2008: four years ago at this time, just 502,836 Democrats had requested ballots, compared to 748,124 Republicans. So, whereas Republicans were roughly 245,000 votes ahead then, they’re about 74,000 votes ahead now.

Of course, just a small fraction of voters have turned in their ballots so far, and it’s impossible to know for whom they were cast, but the campaigns are monitoring data about which party those voters registered with and then making assumptions accordingly. In Florida, about 12,300 Republicans have voted so far, compared with about 10,300 Democrats.

As of this past weekend, Republicans were outpacing Democrats in requests for absentee ballots in Colorado, 656,813 to 627,064 -- an edge of roughly 30,000.

In North Carolina, Republicans were far ahead as of Saturday, requesting 65,683 ballots to just 33,927 for Democrats. And in Nevada, both parties notched around 20,000 requests apiece with an edge of 679 for Democrats.

There are exceptions to the general trend, of course: In Iowa, Democrats have raced past Republicans, increasing their advantage in absentee ballot requests from what it was in 2008. Whereas 43,543 more Democrats than Republicans requested ballots in the Hawkeye State by this point in 2008, 67,475 more Democrats have done so this cycle.

But when all of the swing states are taken together, as Republican operatives see it, they are not being outmatched by the incumbent’s aggressive operation.

Republican National Committee spokesman Tim Miller explained, “We’re outperforming the Democrats, we’re over-performing our expectations, and we’re over-performing registration in key counties.”

He added that last week’s boffo debate performance by Mitt Romney contributed to a massive spike in the number of volunteers helping the campaign. And he pointed out that those new volunteers are calling friends and urging them to cast ballots early.

“It means now that there’s one less person we have to call during the turnout operation,” Miller said, allowing volunteers to focus on additional voters.

Democratic strategists, however, note that Republicans consistently lead when it comes to absentee ballots, a trend that has been demonstrated over time. But they point out that the campaign is generating more early and absentee votes than it did in 2008, when enthusiasm for then-Sen. Barack Obama was particularly high.

Said Obama national field director Jeremy Bird: “We have been building a historic grass-roots operation for years and our hard work is paying off. The proof is in the pudding, as we are running ahead of where we were at this time in 2008.” 

Erin McPike is a national political reporter for RealClearPolitics. She can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @ErinMcPike.

Mitt Romney for Mayor
Carl M. Cannon · November 16, 2014
A President Who Is Hearing Things
Richard Benedetto · November 12, 2014
Bret Stephens' Call for Robust U.S. Foreign Policy
Peter Berkowitz · November 16, 2014

Latest On Twitter