GOP’s early vote worries mount

Early-voting returns continue to paint a bleak picture for Donald Trump.

In Nevada, where early in-person voting began on October 22, Democratic voters cast 23,000 more ballots than Republicans as of Tuesday afternoon, good for a 15 percentage-point edge in the nearly 150,000 ballots cast. (Mail-in and absentee ballots narrow the gap slightly.)

Polling and early-voting returns suggest Democrats are maintaining an edge in North Carolina, and they are also slicing into a thinner-than-expected early vote lead for Republicans in Florida, who now lead by about half a percentage point; in 2012, the GOP held a much more significant edge two weeks from Election Day. Women in Florida are casting early ballots in far greater numbers than four years ago, and Hispanic turnout is surging as well, according to data released by the Hillary Clinton campaign. Polls suggest that both constituencies are strongly Democratic this year.

In Colorado — where Democrats hold a voter registration edge for the first time — early returns give the party a 23,000-vote lead in returned and in-person ballots. In Arizona, which last went Democratic in 1996, Democrats held a thin early-vote lead on Monday.

Even reliably Republican Texas is sending shudders down GOP spines. In the state’s most heavily populated, Democratic-leaning urban counties, early-voting turnout is surging beyond its historical pace — and new polls suddenly show the unthinkable: Texas is not entirely out of reach for Clinton.

“Since the time I started running for state chairman in 2009, I have warned Texas Republicans that Texas should be treated as a competitive state,” said Steve Munisteri, a former head of the state’s GOP. “Any erosion in our support among Hispanic voters could reduce our margins significantly.”

Taken together, the early-voting results suggest that Clinton’s sharp climb in recent polls is translating into a pre-election lead that puts Trump at risk of being buried in some states even before Election Day. Trump’s campaign did not respond to a request for comment.

The Clinton campaign has dispatched high-profile surrogates to encourage early voting. On Wednesday, Chelsea Clinton will make three stops in Ohio, including one in Cincinnati’s populous Hamilton County. Anne Holton — the wife of Clinton’s running mate, Tim Kaine — will canvass Nevada with Democratic Senate nominee Catherine Cortez Masto to encourage early voting.

Nevada Republicans are suddenly scrambling to keep up — and they have two House seats on the line, as well as their only decent opportunity to pick up a Democrat-held Senate seat. Though polls once suggested the state — like Ohio and Iowa — was tipping toward Trump, Clinton has begun to build a solid polling lead and is hoping to lock it in with early ballots.

“Voter turnout has been humongous. To quote Donald Trump, it’s been yuuuuge,” said Dwight Mazzone, GOP chairman in Nevada’s Clark County, home to Las Vegas and three-quarters of the state’s population. “The stories I hear is that the unions are busing people into the polls, giving them lunch, giving them a T-shirt. Republicans have never done that.”

Mazzone said he still believes Trump can win Nevada and that, in his southern Las Vegas neighborhood, he’s seen “a hell of a lot” of Trump supporters stream into early balloting locations. Sherry Powell, treasurer of Reno’s Washoe County GOP, said both parties deserve credit for driving up early-voting turnout, and she noted that Republicans in her area have been trekking to rural Nevada to help the more Trump-supportive population there get to the polls.

National Republicans found a few bright spots in the numbers across the map. In an early-voting summary distributed by the Republican National Committee, the party pointed to its tiny edge in Florida absentee ballots submitted — despite a much narrower advantage than in 2012 — as a positive sign. Likewise, in Nevada, the RNC pointed to a slightly smaller number of Democratic absentee ballots, ignoring the double-digit lead Democrats had racked up in in-person voting.

Iowa continues to be one of the GOP’s brightest spots, with Democrats dramatically underperforming their absentee voting totals of 2012 and Republicans continuing to cut into their lead.

Still, the most eye-catching numbers are coming from Texas, where there is a sudden wave of optimism among Democrats. While state Republicans remain confident they’ll keep the state in their column, they concede that Democrats have made inroads in the GOP stronghold — in part due to the state’s growing millennial and minority populations, along with Trump’s penchant for alienating them.

So far, Clinton hasn’t signaled an aggressive investment in Texas, as her allies have in Arizona and Georgia, two other states viewed as potential opportunities to expand the map.

 

 

 

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