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After working precincts in Alameda County for Obama during the last couple of weeks, I was surprised by the size of Hillary's margin in California.  She really had no presence here in Alameda, and the Obama presence and momentum was palpable.  Today I saw a 72-year-old woman waving a home-made "Honk for Obama" sign at College and Ashby-- not that major an intersection-- and the honking was deafening. On a six block dog-walk in Berkeley I saw Obama signs in about one-fourth of the houses and not a single Hillary sign.  So seeing Hillary doing so well in Alameda initially had me puzzled.

However, analyzing the county-by-county data makes it clear that what happened here was not a GOTV failure by the Obama people but rather a testament to what happens when too many people cast absentee ballots in a fluid primary too early.  In county after county where Obama should have done well (e.g., Nevada), Edwards is getting 10-15% of the vote.  Nothing against Edwards, and I know there are some diehards out there, but the vast majority of those votes are absentee ballot votes sent in weeks ago that would have gone to Obama had those voters waited until election day and voted at the polls.  (I walked a precinct on Saturday and ran into several people who told me they had voted absentee for Edwards and wanted their ballots back so they could vote for Obama.)  I also suspect a lot of the Hillary votes are early absentee ballots mailed by people weeks ago before people understood that Obama was really viable.

This is not to say that Obama would have won California had it not been for the early absentee ballots, or the Edwards votes.  Hillary's people did a great job, and they very well might have won anyway.  But this would have been at least a very close race had it not been for absentee ballots,  or had the absentees waited until the week before the election before sending those ballots in.  For the future, we need to learn that while it doesn't make a difference in the general election, there is very good reason to wait for election day when casting a vote in a primary election.

Originally posted to oythegoy on Tue Feb 05, 2008 at 11:26 PM PST.

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