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Oh My: Romney Leads 52/46 in National Early Voting?

Editor's Note: I posted this analysis in Hot Air's green room late last night, and I thought so folks over here might find it -- shall we say -- marginally interesting.  One week until election day:


This data point was flagged by Breitbart's John Nolte, who was initially thrown off by the mundane, nothing-to-see-here headline, "In US, 15% of Registered Voters Have Already Cast Ballots."  But then there's this, fresh from Gallup:

Am I missing something, or is this a rather significant development?  Isn't early voting supposed to be Democrats' secret weapon, with which they run up the score, then dare the GOP to catch up on Election Day?  And unlike the snapshot national polls that we obsess over each day (many of which are based upon samples of 800-1,200 respondents), this survey has a massive sample size of 3,312 registered voters.  Of those who say they've already voted nationwide, the D/R/I is 33/37/29, or R+4.  Glance over that chart one more time.  If those stats are even close to representative of the 2012 electorate, Obama is going to lose.  Right?  Or have I managed to blind myself to a glaring caveat or two?

UPDATE - I suppose Obama could be cleaning up in swing state early voting, and Romney's apparent lead is being banked in places where it won't ultimately matter.  But as Josh Jordan has written, major national trends and CW in the battlegrounds have to collide at some point.  It will be interesting to hear Team O's spin on this...though they may just shout "outlier," as they have with much of the Gallup data in recent weeks.

UPDATE II- Two more reasons I'm taking something of a "too-good-to-be-true" approach to this poll: (1) I just can't reconcile it with the numerous other polls showing a close race.  And this election at least feels like a close race.  (2) Gallup's write up seems decidedly nonchalant about their own information.  Here's a direct quote: "Political impact of early voting looks minimal...Thus far, early voters do not seem to be swaying the election toward either candidate."

UPDATE III - But wait, there's more.  Here are Gallup's stats from October 28, 2008: *Obama led in early voting by 15 points (55/40).*  His election day edge was just three points.  He ended up winning by seven points.  One more note.  In the Gallup's 2008 numbers, the percentage of Americans who said they'd already voted or planned to vote early by this stage in the campaign was 33 percent.  Four years later, that number sits at...33 percent.

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