OFA Has Turned the Tables on the GOP Historical Absentee Advantage

” Absentee Ballots are like a late reporting Republican Precinct” said one prominent Democratic Party official to me in 2002. This was the mantra from Democrats at the time. At the time I was serving as the Field Coordinator for the Party working through the DEC Chairs Association. The message was clear: focus on election day GOTV and just treat the absentees like it was Collier County. Jeb Bush entered the election cay 2002 with a 500,000 vote lead over Bill McBride. He won the election by 750,000, meaning he did not win that decisively on the day of the election. But the advantage the GOP banked went right down the ballot into Congressional, State Senate and State House races.

The tide was so overwhelming that two of the three best funded Democratic challengers for Congress in the country, Wayne Hogan and Harry Jacobs were trounced. All of this happened BEFORE election day despite the protestations of myself and many others.

Thanks goodness a decade later we have Obama for America. The Presidents campaign adroitly run by David Axelrod, David Plouffe and others has taken the opposite course, beating the GOP at their own game. So despite the constant noise from conservatives who claim that Mitt Romney’s momentum has sealed the race (Both Karl Rove and Dick Morris within the last 24 hours essentially have said this) the reality is that the President has banked an early advantage that could be insurmountable in key states. Florida, believe it or not could be one of them.

Consider that in 2008, when Barack Obama carried the state by over 3%, he lost the absentee vote to John McCain by 12%. Today’s Florida absentee numbers still have the Republicans ahead, but not by the types of margins they have traditionally banked. The GOP retort claims that the Democrats have simply turned early voters into absentee voters, something that I believe will be disproved this upcoming week as early voting opens. It is however true that the Democrats have shifted some of the base vote that turns out normally on election day to vote absentee this cycle.

While it is entirely possible the Democrats have just turned reliable election day voters into absentee voters, the banking of an early base vote allows GOTV activities of the party and OFA to focus on less reliable voters or the so called “persuadable voters” (if they in fact actually exist which is questionable.) The Republicans were able to do this in 2002 and 2004 as the Democrats focused on turning out the base for early and election day voting. This cycle, the shoe is on the other foot, and the election could well be decided before election day yet again.

6 thoughts on “OFA Has Turned the Tables on the GOP Historical Absentee Advantage”

  1. More importantly than ‘persuadable’ voters are ‘sometime’ voters. Half of the AB voters – 500,000 voted from never to twice in the last 3 general elections. Almost all of these people will vote, which means a potential increased turnout of half a million. In addition, these 500K votes means that volunteers will be able to reach a larger portion of the sometime voting population, resulting in higher overall turnout. And, with higher DEM than REP numbers, along with a lower overall turnout, turnout is key to winning FL elections.

  2. I am of course voting for a third party candidate Virgil Goode but Obama’s operation is the best a Democrat has had in Florida. He has no business getting close but might win because of his ground game.

  3. Republicans are claiming they have a big advantage by banking early the votes of more causual voters. They say the Democrats haven’t expanded the voting universe at all.

  4. The REP party consists of a smaller number of more highly ideological voters who tend to vote more consistently. The DEM party tends to be more centrist. There are more DEMs, but they vote less often. These statistics are repeated in the AB voters. There doesnt appear to be any significant difference between AB and nonAB voters. Thus, it aapears, if anything, that DEMS are increasing turnout by getting more someting voters to vote AB. That assumes, of course, that those voters actually DO vote – gonna take some work