With early voting over, we're kind of in a dead spot news-wise, much like the Sunday before the Super Bowl. There are a few things to think about as we wait for Tuesday.
Democratic Chairman Gerald Birnberg said excitement about Obama and Hispanic voters' identification with the Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate, hometown legislator Rick Noriega, could push the total Harris County voter turnout to 1.3 million, above the record-high 1.08 million in 2004.
Bush carried Harris County in the presidential contest then, with 585,000 presidential votes, more than in 2000.
The massive early vote appears to support the Democratic argument. Using public voting records and their eyes, political scientists, officials and strategists in both parties say the dominating forces in the 12 days of early balloting were African-American voters stimulated by Obama's candidacy and other voters with a Democratic voting history.
"Even in areas like Katy, where all these people who are showing up are supposed to be in white, Republican (precincts), they are blacks and Hispanics who voted in March (in the Obama-Clinton match) and who are coming back to vote in the general election," University of Houston political scientist Richard Murray said.
But many of those voters will vote for Obama and stop. Some may be former Clinton supporters for McCain. Others will vote Democratic to the back of the ballot, giving a lift to the entire ticket, down to the obscure judicial races.
As for the Hillary-to-McCain factor, all I can say is that at this point, there's no polling evidence to back that up. PUMAs, such as they were, are basically extinct now. Democrats are voting for Obama at or above the levels for which they voted for Kerry in 2004 and Gore in 2000. With all the prominent Republicans that have come out for Obama lately (quick, tell me the last Democrat of any note to publicly back McCain), I'd pay more attention to the R-to-D crossover possibility.
Bearing in mind again that nobody knows what's going to happen, I want to highlight something that the Republicans are saying:
Numerous studies show the growth of Democratic-leaning minority populations in Harris County has outstripped changes in the Anglo population, leading Birnberg to see a Republican vote this year no greater than 600,000. An overall county vote of 1.3 million or more would leave Republicans on the losing end.
"That's a sweep," he said.
Republican counterpart Jared Woodfill sees an opposite picture.
The March primaries drew 407,000 voters to the closely contested Democratic race and 169,000 voters to the less dramatic, McCain-dominated Republican contest. If the parties had voted at equal strength in the primaries, in a county that has been dominated for decades by Republican voters, the chairman said, it would still leave room for an additional 500,000 voters participating in a turnout of 1.3 million.
"We may draw more independents than we may draw someone who is considered a Republican partisan," he said.
How about this quote?
GOP pollster Mike Baselice said he doubts the GOP will lose the early vote: "I'm not seeing much news here. Republicans need to be in the low 50s on early vote, or it's 'game over."
One last bit of Baselice wisdom, also from the Statesman:
In total, 299,325 Travis County residents, or about half of registered voters, cast their ballots by the end of the two-week early voting period. In 2004, about 40 percent of the county's registered voters cast ballots early.
Early votes this year amounted to 84 percent of the total Travis County turnout of 355,708 in the 2004 election.
In Travis County, Democratic primary voters outnumbered Republicans nearly 4-to-1 in early voting as of Wednesday, when the most recent statistics were available, Beatty said. Half of the hard-core supporters for both the Democrats and Republicans have already voted, Beatty said, but enough people who haven't voted in primaries -- the less partisan voters -- could tip some local elections.
"We've never seen anything like this election," Beatty said, adding that he thinks Democrats will make gains throughout the state.
Mike Baselice, a Republican political analyst, cautioned against predicting a Republican demise based on early voting numbers.
He pointed out that more people vote in the Democratic primary in Texas than in the GOP primary, yet Republicans control the state government.
There's also evidence, he said, that the surge of early voting Democrats may lead to a smaller Election Day turnout, and that some of the new primary voters that Democrats are putting in their column could be "casual Republicans" who may vote Republican on Tuesday.
GOP Primary = 1,019,803
Dem Primary = 921,256
GOP Primary = 596,839
Dem Primary = 654,154
GOP Primary = 1,126,757
Dem Primary = 786,890
GOP Primary = 627,068
Dem Primary = 1,003,388
GOP Primary = 687,615
Dem Primary = 839,231
GOP Primary = 655,919
Dem Primary = 508,602
GOP Primary = 1,362,322
Dem Primary = 2,874,986
And again, "casual Republicans"? Where's the in-your-face attitude? I almost miss it.
As always, you can make whatever you want of these numbers so far. Baselice and crew may just be doing a little rope-a-dope, I can't say. I'm just not used to that tone of rhetoric coming from them.Posted by Charles Kuffner on November 03, 2008 to Election 2008