Democrats are ecstatic over news that early voting among their party faithful is well ahead of 2012 numbers. In fact, short of Florida and Iowa, the party is outpacing Republicans. This has the party optimistic they can take marginal seats in Colorado and elsewhere.
But 2016 is not 2012. Romney ran up significant margins in virtually every battleground state in 2012 yet still lost almost every single one of those states. Additionally, the advent of new campaign technology makes the victories and defeats of former campaigns largely irrelevant.
Sure, you cannot dismiss the fact Democrats are using their organizational advantage to great effect. But, the vote totals among partisans are really not that great. Plus, it’s clear that the Trump and Clinton campaigns have taken divergent paths in getting voters to the polls.
Clinton has invested in an extremely data driven and micro targeting focused campaign. This makes sense considering she is targeting low turnout voters and her campaign is uninspiring. Trump, on the other hand, has eschewed data and campaign infrastructure (leaving it to the RNC) and focused on leveraging his celebrity and rhetoric to bring supporters to the polls. In the primaries he used free media to significant effect and he has tried to do the same of late.
Historically, the conventional wisdom has followed a linear line of logic; Republicans win mail-in ballots, Democrats in-person early voting and Republicans win Election Day, in-person voting. The elections are determined by the margins.
But this logic has always been far too simplistic. Just because one identifies as a Republican or Democrat does not mean they will VOTE that way. For example, many solid Republicans in Northern Florida still identify in voter rolls as Democrats. Many moderate Republicans in New England vote solidly Democrat now.
Certainly, campaign software and technology has tried to keep apace of these changes. They’d be foolish if they did not. But, even the most sophisticated software cannot always be right.
In our hyper-partisan campaign cycles where party stalwarts have always lined up on two sides and Independents have preferred their personal leanings the theme for the parties has been to get their partisans out in force. For the most part it probably has benefited the parties.
But this is not 2004, 2008 or even 2012. This is 2016, an election year where evidence abounds registered Democrats are defecting to Trump and many white-collar, up-scale, white Republicans are defecting for Clinton. Again, evidence abounds these voters might split their tickets down-ballot as well. In New Hampshire and Pennsylvania Clinton has established solid leads. Yet, in some polls both GOP Senate incumbents are pulling 15-20 percent support among Democrats. A vote for Clinton does not automatically equate to a vote for other down-ballot Democrats.
Add all this up and you find the numbers could mean many things. But, it also is an indication that early voting numbers are not the end all be all. Democrats would be wise to remember this.