Before we start -
1) For those of you in NC who have not voted, you can find a location where you can vote early here.
2) I didn't manage to get an update done yesterday! Sorry to those who were looking for it. Generally there should be an update every day going forward, although it's possible I'll miss a day again.
3) In consultation with David Nir, I'm going to start using the DK Elections tag on these diaries. The problem is, we don't want to clog up the DKE sub-site diary sidebar. If we delete the tags for the previous day's diary, then it should disappear from the sidebar. So I'd appreciate it if anyone who notices be mindful of this and not-re-add the DK Elections tag for any out of date diaries in this NC Early Voting series, and help to delete it for any out of date diary in this series for which it pops up, so that only the most recent diary will show up in the DKE sidebar.
Thursday and Friday voting overview:
Early Voting in NC on Thursday and Friday was pretty consistent with the pattern we saw in Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday early voting. 170,215 people voted on Thursday and 173,543 more voted on Friday.
Overall, 1,352,147 people have voted and President Obama has built up an estimated margin of about 117,939 votes.
Click on the picture below for a full sized chart.
More on this at the end of the diary, where we have turnout graphs. Now let's see exactly how Obama can win North Carolina:
As many readers know very well, PPP released an NC poll two days ago, which showed a 48-48 tie.
In this poll, Obama was winning early voters by 15 points - 57 to 42, and Romney was winning people who have not yet voted 50 to 45. There's a margin of error of about + or - 6% on PPP's sub-sample of early voters, which was 30% of PPP's overall 880 voter sample.
That margin among early voters is a bit higher than from my methodology (about 10 points). If PPP's numbers are correct, I may be underestimating Obama's true support among, for example, white unaffiliated college students. Given the 6% margin of error for PPP's early voter sub-sample, they may also be overestimating Obama's support slightly.
The Math of an Obama Win in NC:
The PPP poll certainly suggests that Obama can win North Carolina, although it will not be easy. We can see the same thing in the early voting numbers.
In order to do this, first of all we need to project forward to estimate how many votes will be cast by the end of the early voting period. Over the last 5 days of weekend voting, Romney has exceeded McCain's 2008 vote total by an estimated 13,700 votes per day, while Obama has exceeded his own 2008 vote total by an estimate 1,887 votes per day.
If this same pattern holds for the remaining weekdays in the early vote period, and if the same pattern that occurred last weekend repeats this weekend, then the estimated vote total at the end of the early vote period will be 1,561,639 for Obama and 1,410,172 for Romney.
Can Obama really win NC?:
If, at the end of the early vote period, Romney has cut into Obama's 2008 early vote lead by so much, without taking into account changes in voter preferences, you might be wondering whether Obama can really win North Carolina again.
Indeed, he can.
It all depends on which campaign is turning out its sporadic voters. OFA certainly believes it is turning out unlikely voters, which might not otherwise vote on election day:
Said one senior official: “But the most important thing about early vote is one thing and one thing only: are you getting your sporadic voters to vote? Because if it’s just chasing people who are going to vote anyway than it’s just…a zero sum game. But all the data I see says we are getting our sporadics to vote at a higher rate than they are, which, especially for any Democratic candidate, is a bigger challenge because we have lower propensity voters. That’s exactly what we are doing and we feel great about that.”
Furthermore, since the beginning of last week, there has been an increase of 18,900 registered voters, 52.7% of whom are Democrats and 31.8% of whom are African American. I don't know how many of these registrations are from new One-Stop Early voters who have already voted; as dean4ever pointed out last week, some could be from mail registrations which were processed slowly. Still, one would suspect that a good number of these registrations are from new voters who either have already voted or will vote.
Change in NC Voter Registration since Last Week (since Saturday, October 20):
Democrats: +9,959 (52.7%)
Republicans: +4,240 (22.4%)
Libertarians: +302 (1.6%)
Unaffiliated: +4,399 (23.3%)
White: +7,378 (39.0%)
Black: +6,016 (31.8%)
American Indian: +192 (1.0%)
Hispanic: +1,044 (5.5%)
Other: +5314 (28.1%)
Male: +8,872 (46.9%)
Female: +8,709 (46.1%)
Total: +18,900 (100%)
In tomorrow's update I'll include an analysis of the change in voter registration in North Carolina more broadly since the 2008 election, which appears to be pretty favorable on the aggregate statewide level. But the statewide change only tells part of the story - the change in voter registration looks much better when you crack it open and look at it county by county.
Constructing A (Fairly Pessimistic) Obama Win Scenario:
However, we need to apply some more corrections to our projection of 1,561,639 votes for Obama and 1,410,172 for Romney. In reality, some of those votes will go to third party candidates, some will be undervotes, and some will not be counted for various reasons - although in the event of a recount, some borderline case ballots could end up being counted. We need to take these factors into account. For 2008, to arrive at the actual number of votes Obama and McCain really got from early voting, we have to take away 76,028 votes from Obama and 106,557 votes from McCain. If we apply the same adjustment to our 2012 estimate, that gives us 1,485,611 votes for Obama and 1,303,614 votes for Romney.
Now, one thing about the estimate above is that we are not incorporating any possible loss of support for Obama among white voters. There's actually not really that much good evidence that Obama is in fact likely to suffer a large drop in his support rate from white voters in North Carolina - for example, in the PPP poll received yesterday, Obama was losing white voters to Romney by 61-35. Exit polls say that Obama lost white voters in North Carolina to McCain in 2008 64-35, which is basically the same thing. Furthermore, the demographics of the white vote are changing internally as Charlotte and Raleigh-Durham continue to receive an influx of progressive whites from the North and elsewhere.
Nonetheless, let's be reasonably pessimistic and allow for a 5% swing to Romney among early voting White Democrats and White Unaffiliateds. Romney can't gain much ground with White Republicans, since McCain already won 96% of them in 2008. White unaffiliateds make up 36.3% of early voters so far - if that vote share stays the same through the end of the early voting period, that would mean that a 5% swing to Romney among early voting White Democrats and White Unaffiliated would yield a swing to Romney of about 50,673 votes.
However, if we're going to assume a swing among White Dems and Unaffiliateds towards Romney, we should probably also allow for a swing among non-African American minorities towards Obama, since there is evidence that Obama will improve in 2012 in particular among Hispanic voters. A 5% swing among non-African American minorities to Obama would be a net swing to Obama of about 3,725 votes. That number is much smaller because only 2.7% of early voters so far have been Non-African American minorities.
Totaling those two vote swings, we are now at 1,462,137 early votes for Obama and 1,327,088 early votes for Romney. But we're not done yet. We need to come up with a realistic estimate of total turnout, in order to figure out how many people will vote on election day. Truth be told, we don't really have a very good idea about how many people will vote on election day - that's why the ground game is crucial! But other things being equal, we should expect voter turnout to increase at about the same rate as the Voting Eligible Population increases.
In 2008, North Carolina's Voting Eligible Population was an estimated 6,584,302 people. By 2012, North Carolina's Voting Eligible Population has grown to an estimated 6,970,868 people. That's a rate of growth of 5.9%. Incidentally, that number is also very close to the 5.5% increase in voter registration that NC has experienced since election day, 2008.
In total, 4,310,789 people voted in 2008 in North Carolina. If we apply that same 5.9% rate of growth to total turnout, that means that we should estimate that - other things being equal - total 2012 turnout should be about 4,563,876. There was more of a turnout increase from 2004 to 2008 than there is likely to be from 2008 to 2012 because North Carolina was newly contested as a swing state in 2008, because of higher African American turnout for President Obama, and because voter registration increased by more (+13.2% from 2004 to 2008, vs. +5.5% from 2008 to 2012).
We're almost there, but there is just one more thing we need to take care of. 39,664 people voted for Third Party or Write-In candidates in 2008, so let's assume that 40,000 people will do the same in 2012. In addition, there were 12,815 provisional ballots for Obama and 12,097 provisional ballots for McCain in 2008 - let's assume those numbers stay the same for 2012.
The Math of our Obama Win Scenario:
Now, given all of the above - and those are a lot of assumptions - We have 1,462,137 early votes for Obama, 1,327,088 early votes for Romney, 12,815 provisional ballots for Obama, and 12,097 provisional ballots for Romney. Under these circumstances, with a total projected turnout of 4,563,876, how many votes does Obama need on election day for a narrow (let's about 10,000 vote) victory?
As we can see, Obama would need to lose election day voting by about 791,510 to 918,229 (45.2% to 52.5%) in order for this to happen.
By comparison, in 2008, John McCain won election day voting by 1,039,232 votes to 747,637 (57.4% to 41.3%), so this would mean that Obama would have to do better in 2012 election day voting than in 2008 election day voting.
Specifically, Obama would need to get 43,873 more votes on election day than in 2008, while Romney would have to get 121,003 fewer votes on election day than McCain got in 2008. On its face, you would think that is unlikely, but you have to take into account the fact that Republicans are pushing early voting in 2012 much more than they did in 2008, which will shift some GOP election day voters into early voting, thereby subtracting from the GOP election day vote.
It is very much plausible that Obama can increase his 2008 election day total by at least 43,873 votes. At the same time, it is also quite plausible that Romney could get 121,003 fewer votes on election day than did McCain. The fact that Romney is turning out so many more voters early is a double edged sword for him. On the one hand, it increases his early vote total, but on the other hand, if the early voters would otherwise have voted on election day, it subtracts. In our scenario, we are projecting that Romney will ultimate 250,000 more early votes than did McCain.
Even if half of the additional early votes Romney is banking are from new voters who would not otherwise vote on election day, and if the other half are from consistent voters who voted on election day for McCain in 2008 and would have voted for Romney on election day in 2012 if they had not early voted, that's enough to subtract 121,003 votes from Romney's election day total, relative to McCain.
We also have some confirmation from the PPP poll that this election day scenario is not implausible - PPP has Romney up by 50-45 among people who have not already voted, which is pretty darn close to the 52.5%-45.2% needed in this scenario, and certainly within the margin of error.
Implications of our Obama Win Scenario:
The fact that it is possible to sketch out even a remotely plausible scenario in which Obama wins North Carolina (a state which he won by only 14,177 votes in 2008), in which Romney cuts into Obama's 2008 Early Voting margin by 156,546 votes, and in which White Democrats and White Unaffiliateds swing 5% towards Romney, cannot be taken as a good sign for Mitt Romney.
Even under these fairly pessimistic assumptions, Obama can win North Carolina. That is significant - not just for what it says about how North Carolina is changing politically and demographically - but also for what it says about other states, which were not as close in 2008, which are also experiencing rapid demographic change, and in which Obama also has very strong support from minority voters.
I'm thinking about what these means for other states like Virginia, where the Non-Hispanic White Voting Age Population is only 67.2%, which is even lower than in North Carolina (in which the Voting Age Population is 68.4% Non-Hispanic White). Early voting is much more limited in Virginia than in NC, but despite Republican claims, the numbers don't actually look better for the GOP than 2008.
I'm thinking about what these means for other states like Florida, where the Non-Hispanic White Voting Age Population is 58.9%, which is even lower than in Virginia. Democrats are doing much better in vote by mail so far in Florida than in 2008, and early voting in person is starting today, with reports of heavy turnout.
I'm thinking about what these means for other states like Nevada, where the Non-Hispanic White Voting Age Population is 58.9%, which is even lower than in Florida. By the way, Democrats are killing it in early voting in Nevada, already building up a 36,000 vote lead in Clark County.
Even if Obama does not win NC, if he wins FL, it's game over for Romney.
Even if Obama does not win NC, if he wins VA and NV, it's pretty much game over for Romney.
And if, for example, Obama wins NC and VA, it's game over for Romney.
And over the longer term, I'm thinking about what this means for other states like Georgia (59.0% Non-Hispanic White VAP), and of course Texas (49.6% Non-Hispanic White VAP). Both Georgia and Texas are big early voting states, much like North Carolina.
Early Vote Charts:
White Republican turnout continues to increase above 2008 levels:
Although Minority and White Democratic turnout is also higher than in 2008:
Obama's estimated vote margin is clearly now growing at a slower rate than in 2008, but even with the higher Republican turnout, Obama continues to expand his lead:
It's clear from the daily margin chart that almost all of the difference from 2008 comes from the last week of in-person weekday turnout - and from the higher GOP turnout during that period.
Obama's cumulative estimated support % is lower than in 2008, again because of the higher GOP early vote turnout:
Again, the difference in the estimated daily Obama vote percentage is evident over the last 5 days of in-person voting:
Previous NC Early Voting Diaries:
Day 1 & Methodology