Early and Overconfident

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If Democrats weren’t already feeling blithely overconfident about President Obama’s re-election prospects, some are pointing to early voting as yet another source of sanguinity. The last time that there was a major “October surprise” in a presidential election, when Ronald Reagan “sealed the deal” against Jimmy Carter in a late-October debate, there was no such thing as early voting. Even absentee voting was in its infancy. But as part of progressive efforts to improve turnout, especially among low-income voters who sometimes can’t make it to the polls on Election Day, early voting has spread fast in recent elections—from 16 percent of all ballots cast in 2000 to about one-third of the total in 2008. This year, as many as 40 percent of Americans will vote early—which means they can, in the majority of states, already vote. And where does most early voting occur? In swing states. Iowa started voting yesterday. Ohio begins next week. As many as 70 percent of the votes in some crucial states—Colorado, North Carolina, Florida, Nevada—are expected to come from early birds.

Why would this inspire a new gust of Democratic overconfidence? Because Obama’s poll numbers have shot up just as early voting gets underway in many places. In Iowa, for instance, one poll had Obama leading by seven points as the voting commenced. Another happy factor for Dems: Even if Mitt Romney makes a miraculous turn-around, his late-game surge won’t have nearly the impact of Reagan’s. It’s numerically impossible. Too many people will already have voted for the guy who was riding high in late September and early October.

But—you knew there had to be a “but”!—it’s way too easy to overhype the real impact of early voting. Most early voters actually don’t cast their ballots until the last week of October. And as a handy chart compiled by the Washington Post’s Aaron Blake shows, the next date for a swing state to start early voting—after Ohio begins on Tuesday—is October 20. An October surprise, which increasingly looks like an October Hail-Mary Miracle, could still happen. It will just have to happen a little bit … earlier.


So They Say

“I've been thinking about starting a hedge fund, just to invest in whatever [Dick] Morris says won't happen. You have to actually be quite skilled to be that bad.”

Nate Silver, interviewed by New York magazine


Daily Meme: Circular Firing Squad, Take One

  • Republicans are eager to find someone or something to blame for their rotten luck on the presidential election stage so far this year. Last week, they tried blaming it on Romney adviser Stuart Stevens. 
  • Earlier this week, they tried blaming the polls. 
  • Now, with nowhere left to turn, they've decided to blame Mitt. One advisor assessed the candidate thusly: “He’s a great leader, but he’s not a great politician. As much as we complain about politicians, we like a good politician. He doesn’t have the hand-on-the-shoulder thing. He’s not quick-witted. He’s an analytical, data-driven businessperson.”
  • National Review goes a step further, finding fault not only with the candidate's character, but the entire premise upon which his candidacy sits.
  • Maybe the friendly fire was inevitable. As Jon Chait points out, "Nobody, except Jennifer Rubin and Matt Drudge, actually displayed any real enthusiasm for the man. He won by default."
  • Steve Kornacki says the Republican Party deserves the real blame for Romney's failures as a candidate.
  • RedState's Erick Erickson is staying on Team Romney, saying it's really all those elitist Republicans' fault that their prospects have soured.
  • To which Ross Douthat retorts: Poppycock! Those elitist Republicans wanted Paul Ryan to be on the ticket, so Erickson's argument is moot.
  • Who's right? The Prospect's Paul Waldman: They all are! Romney's ineffectiveness is like an onion. Lots of layers.
  • But who knows, maybe Mitt simply hasn't pulled out the big guns yet.


What We're Reading

  • Today’s Todd Aiken Trainwreck is becoming a whole new version of The Daily Show’s “moment of Zen.” In Friday’s installment, “Legitimate Rape” Aiken explains his opposition to the Lily Fair Pay Ledbetter Act. Read, listen, and enjoy! 
  • Juan Williams: Whatever happened to the Republican fury over Obamacare?
  • Noam Scheiber thinks Paul Ryan has hurt Romney even more than the 47 Percent comments. 
  • And hey, wasn’t Ryan supposed to bolster the Republicans’ Catholic vote?
  • Michelle Rhee: Is Democrats’ alliance with teachers unions falling apart? 
  • While Americans overwhelmingly accept interracial marriages, they are increasingly cool to inter-party marriage. In 1960, only 5 percent of Americans had a problem with, say, their daughter or son marrying someone from the other party. Now it’s 40 percent.
  • If Obama’s re-elected, can he get some help from Congress? John Nichols puts the congressional races into perspective for progressives.


Poll of the Day

As the Supreme Court begins a new session on Monday, the justices can rest assured that they still poll better than the other branches of government—although not so much among Republicans. Overall, Gallup finds that 49 percent of Americans approve of the way the Court handles its job, against 40 percent who don’t. The partisan split, which tends to fluctuate based on recent big cases (Obamacare, anyone?), is huge: Democrats approve of the Court 57-34 percent, while Republicans are almost the opposite: 56 percent disapprove, 36 percent approve. Independents, you'll be shocked to learn, split the difference. 

For more polling information, go to the Prospect’s 2012 election map.

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