Elections
FILE - In this Oct. 2, 2012 file photo, voters stand in line outside the Hamilton County Board of Elections just before it opened for early voting, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/Al Behrman, File) FILE - In this Oct. 2, 2012 file photo, voters stand in line outside the Hamilton County Board of Elections just before it opened for early voting, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/Al Behrman, File)  

Will early voters cannibalize Nov. 6 turnout?

Photo of Neil Munro
Neil Munro
White House Correspondent

Will the early voters cannibalize the total number of 2012 voters, including what campaigns call “sporadic” Election-Day voters?

That’s a major unknown as Democrats and Republicans tout and trash each other’s advantages and try to build enthusiasm going into the final days of the 2012 campaign.

Democrats say their intensive get-out-the-vote efforts will coax “high-propensity” base supporters to the polls early, freeing up resources to bus, push and drag a wave of so-called “sporadic voters” to the polls during the last few days of the winner-take-all contest.

“We’re up by double digits among sporadic voters,” Obama’s campaign manager said Oct. 29. Partly because of high support among Latinos, “the sporadic voters are coming, and they’re coming in a very crucial way for the Obama campaign,” he said.

But if Democratic enthusiasm is low, the election-day turnout of sporadic voters will likely dip. An apparent advantage among early voters would be exposed as a wave of base voters who won’t able to boost election-day turnout.

In effect, early-voting efforts is no guarantee of election-day turnout.

Any election-day deficit could deliver key states to the GOP candidate, Gov. Mitt Romney, if independents swing his way. “The race comes down to independents. … We lead among independents,” Neil Newhouse, Romney’s pollster said Oct. 30.

Gallup’s reports show that Romney is edging Obama among the independent voters, including those in critical battleground states where Obama has focused his campaign resources and appears to be a point or two ahead of Romney.

Overall, Gallup is predicting that turnout will be lower than in 2008, suggesting that fewer of Obama’s sporadic voters are expected to vote.

“Key Gallup indicators of voter turnout, collected prior to Hurricane Sandy, suggest voter turnout will fall short of what it was in 2004 and 2008,” Gallup reported Oct. 30.

Moreover, a new Gallup report shows Republicans getting more of their base voters to the polls early, presumably also freeing up GOP resources to steer right-leaning sporadic voters toward the polling booths.

Although the sample is small, “Romney holds a non-significant edge among early voters (50% to 43%),” concluded a survey released Oct. 30 by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press. In 2008, said Pew, “Obama led John McCain by 19 points (53% to 34%) among early voters” a few days prior to Election Day.

Gallup says Romney is leading among early voters by 52 percent to 46.

But Pew suggested that the early voting trends may lead to a large turnout, helping Obama. “19% of likely voters say they have already voted; that is unchanged from the same week in the 2008 campaign,” Pew reported Oct. 30.

Gallup differed. Its Oct. 30 report said 15 percent of registered voters had cast their ballots, suggesting a turnout lower than 2008.

The Obama campaign claimed progress in boosting turnout. “Among the folks … who didn’t vote in the midterm elections two years ago — Democrats have a 19-point advantage in ballots cast” early for the 2012 election, Jeremy Bird, Obama’s get-out-the vote director.

Pew also reported that the Democratic turnout-machine is reaching more people in the nine decisive swing-states, such as Ohio and Virginia, said the survey.

“Obama voters in the battleground states are more likely than Romney voters to say that they have received emails or text messages about the campaign (43% vs. 30%) or have been visited at home by someone talking about the campaign (25% vs. 14%),” the report said.

However, the Pew survey reported that the Republican national voter-turnout machine is level with the huge apparatus of paid workers created by the Obama re-election campaign.

“About a third of all voters (32%) say they have been contacted by the Obama campaign (11%) or both campaigns (21%), while about as many (31%) say they have been contacted by the Romney campaign (10%) or both (21%),” said the Pew survey.

Follow Neil on Twitter