With that, we can do an apples-to-apples comparison between 2012 and 2008. All numbers below for both 2012 and 2008 are through one week of in person early voting, and have been pulled from the North Carolina State Board of Elections website.
Number of votes cast is up +30.6%
Number of votes is up 54.2%
Number of votes is up 17.0%
Number of votes is up 39.9%
2008 vote percentage by party registration:
2012 vote percentage by party registration (net vs 2008):
Rep: 30.5% (+4.7%)
Dem: 50.7% (-5.9%)
Oth: 18.6% (+1.4%)
Democrats *do* have a 20 point lead over Republicans at this point. But that compares to a 31 point lead at this point in 2008.
BOTTOM LINE: Republicans have gained a net 10.6 points compared to 2008.
But as I’ve cautioned before – the results released by the North Carolina State Board of Elections only tells us the party registration of the person who cast the ballot. We do not know who the person actually voted for.
Obviously there will be some Republicans voting for Obama, some Democrats voting for Romney, and there is no indication from these statistics that tells us for whom those not affiliated with either major party voted.
However, we can build a model that allots those votes to tabulate a likely scenario of how the race stands, and how it compares to the likely state of the race at this point in 2008.
I am going to do two things. First, I will take the 2008 early voting totals through the first week of in person voting by party registration and allot those votes based upon the 2008 North Carolina exit polls. Second, I will take the 2012 votes and allot them based upon the most recent Rasmussen poll.
Off we go.
In 2008, the exit polls showed the following:
McCain: 94% | Obama: 4% | Other: 2%
McCain: 9% | Obama: 90% | Other: 1%
McCain: 60% | Obama: 39% | Other: 1%
So for example, we are taking the 25.8% of early voters who were Republican, and allocating those votes such that 94% went to McCain, 4% went to Obama and 2% went to Other.
Weighting all votes in that manner, the state of the race at this point in 2008 looks like this:
Estimated Vote Totals:
McCain: 303,137 | 39.9%
Obama: 446,546 | 58.8%
Using this methodology, in 2008 Obama held at 18.9 point lead, or 143,509 votes, over McCain after one week of early voting in North Carolina.
Rasmussen’s latest poll in North Carolina asked responders who they intended to vote for – and asked them which party they belonged to. His results show the following:
Romney: 94% | Obama: 4% | Other: 2%
Romney: 17% | Obama: 82% | Other: 1%
Romney: 59% | Obama: 36% | Other: 5%
Weighting the votes by how each category is likely to vote using Rasmussen’s survey, the state of the race at this point in 2012 looks like this:
Estimated Vote Totals:
Romney: 479,899 | 48.4%
Obama: 491,500 | 49.6%
Using this methodology, in 2012 Obama holds a 1.2% lead, or 11,600 votes, over Romney after one week of early voting in North Carolina.
With an 18.9 point lead at this point in 2008, Obama ultimately won 50.2% to 49.8%.
With an estimated 143,509 vote lead in 2008, Obama ultimately won by a 14,177 vote margin.
Obama is now leading by 1.2 points and 11,600 votes.
The big advantage Obama had after even just one week of early voting in 2008 more or less has been cut down to less than his razor-thin margin by the end of the election.
From this point forward in 2008, McCain gained 129,232 net votes over Obama in the remainder of early voting and on election day. Even if Romney’s strength and Obama’s weakness so far in early voting is not carried through, and Romney only equals McCain’s performance the rest of the way, Romney would win North Carolina by about a 2-3 point margin.
If Romney continues to outperform McCain, even modestly compared to what he has done so far, that margin of victory is easily pushed to something approaching a 8-10 point win.
There is a reason that the rumors have flown around about Obama pulling resources out of and ads off the air in North Carolina. First the polling began to swing away from Obama and toward Romney, and now the results of early voting have begun to confirm that polling. While Team Obama has gone on record denying that they are abandoning the state, one gets the feeling that this is more an attempt to keep up appearances so that the narrative of a campaign that is reeling does not take hold.
If I had to call this race today – which I don’t, but I will because that’s how I roll – I would predict the final outcome a 54-45 win for Romney.