Election Day could already be half over in Florida before polling stations open at 7 a.m.
More than 4.5 million people have voted early, which accounts for 38 percent of the state’s 12 million registered voters and half of the ones likely to cast a ballot.
Democrats have a lead in total ballots cast over Republicans — 167,000 — but polls indicate Republican Mitt Romney is in a better position than President Barack Obama.
Obama is worse off than he was four years ago. Depending on how the data are sliced, his pre-Election Day lead could be half of what it was in 2008.
Still, Democrats are up in early ballots.
“It’s half-over, but it’s tied,” said Michael McDonald, a George Mason University political science professor and early voting expert. “There’s still another half to play.”
This is the tough half. If Obama wins Florida, he wins re-election.
The campaigns will be phoning voters who don’t show up, providing rides and keeping electronic tabs on bellwether precincts. It’s a massive numbers game involving tens of thousands of grassroots volunteers and data-mining techies monitoring the campaigns’ progress — or lack thereof — in real time from headquarters in Chicago (Obama) and Boston (Romney).
McDonald said this Florida election had a surprise: Higher proportions of Republicans cast in-person early votes compared to 2008, and even higher percentages of Democrats cast absentee ballots, which are typically mailed.
About 2.1 million absentee ballots were cast statewide — in addition to 2.4 million in-person early votes. The numbers show that, when it comes to voting, Florida has racial divisions that play to each campaign’s strengths, according to an analysis of preliminary voter data conducted by The Miami Herald and the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting: