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Early voting: Obama's secret weapon?
Mitt Romney is surging in public opinion surveys. But President Obama is ahead in the only polling that really counts — the actual election
 
A sign directs people where to cast their ballots during early voting at the Wood County Court House in Bowling Green, Ohio, on Oct. 2.
A sign directs people where to cast their ballots during early voting at the Wood County Court House in Bowling Green, Ohio, on Oct. 2.
J.D. Pooley/Getty Images

Election day is still more than three weeks away, but President Obama already has a lead over Mitt Romney. Forty states have begun early voting, and about 7 percent of likely voters surveyed by Reuters/Ipsos say they've already cast their ballots. (Even Mr. and Mrs. Obama are voting early.) According to Reuters/Ipsos, Obama is ahead with 59 percent of the early votes, compared to a measly 31 percent for Mitt Romney. The poll's sample size is relatively small — only 6,704 voters were surveyed — so its "credibility interval" is 10 percentage points. Even if it's off by that much, though, Obama still has a healthy lead. Of course, Romney has caught up with Obama in opinion polls since his big win in the first presidential debate. But is early voting still giving Obama the edge?

Early ballots could clinch victory for Obama: "Early voting is hugely significant," says Dan Hodges at Britain's Telegraph. A third of the ballots cast this year could be submitted before election day. Don't forget that in 2008, "John McCain won more votes than Barack Obama on the day of the poll itself, but Obama had already demolished him in postal ballots." This time around, Republicans are scrambling to play catch-up, "but it's too late." Obama is already halfway home. 
"Romney has let his army sit in the barracks, while Obama's troops are in the field already"

The votes that count are still up for grabs: Obama's lead is "not surprising at all given the Obama campaign's focus on getting their supporters to vote early," says Rick Moran at The American Thinker. That's undeniably a plus for him, as "early voting also partially inoculates a campaign against any late gaffes." Still, the people rushing to cast ballots now "are among the most partisan voters." The Americans who could go either way will decide this contest, and they haven't picked yet.
"Early voting favors Obama"

And Democrats always do well with early voters: Obama's get-out-the-vote operation is definitely a "secret weapon" of sorts, says Doug Mataconis at Outside the Beltway. But remember, Democrats "tend to attract voters for whom the convenience of being able to vote" early matters. We've seen party disparities "in early voting statistics over the past two election cycles," suggesting that early birds are not a representative sample of the population as a whole. Obama shouldn't be putting any of the early-voting states in the win column just yet.
"Obama's early voting advantage"

Read more political coverage at The Week's 2012 Election Center.

 

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