This information may be more substantive than anything in my previous "tea leaves" post, if it pans out. Tweets from three sharp analysts, based on the available early voting data in Ohio:
By my calc, in '08, 24.8% of registered voters in Obama's OH counties voted early, 19.1% in McCain. Today, 21.7% Obama and 21.3% McCain— Dave Wasserman (@Redistrict) November 6, 2012
Overall, early vote turnout OH up 2.44% in state. Down -4.1% in Obama/Kerry counties; up 14.39% in Bush/McCain counties.— Josh Kraushaar (@HotlineJosh) November 6, 2012
Broke down the vote by strong Dem counties (>=55% average for Kerry/Obama), strong GOP (>=55% average for Bush/McCain), swing (in between).— Jay Cost (@JayCostTWS) November 6, 2012
Strong Dem counties netted 323k votes over strong GOP counties in 2008; in 2012 they've netted 196k votes.— Jay Cost (@JayCostTWS) November 6, 2012
A few important notes: These stats are based entirely on early ballots cast by county, and do not (and cannot) predict precisely what percentage of these votes went for either candidate. Important distinction. The more detailed information doesn't get tabulated until polls close tonight. Still, it's not a bad gauge for relative enthusiasm and turnout. The Wasserman tweet -- which covers a wider swath of Buckeye Counties, not just the heavily partisan ones -- indicates that the GOP may have come close to achieving some degree of early voting parity with Democrats. A far cry from 2008, if accurate. Wasserman still says he thinks Obama will win the state, but by a fraction of a point. That assessment may change if the "cannibalization effect" is real. Kraushaar's observation suggests that the intensity gap we've been hearing about may indeed materialize tonight. The missing piece is what's going on in the all-important Bush/Obama counties. And Cost's series of tweets leads me to believe that when the other counties are factored in, Obama will have a substantially smaller early vote lead in Ohio than he enjoyed in 2008. McCain actually won election day in the state by three points, despite a penniless campaign, a huge Democrat wave, and an ineffectual RNC. If Romney can come quite a bit closer in the early voting, then improve upon McCain's day-of performance, there's certainly a path to victory there. Remember, though, Obama's overall victory margin was 4.5 percentage points four years ago, so he has a cushion. It will be interesting to see how many of the EV feathers have been sucked out of that pillow, which will provide a clearer sense of how many votes Romney must net to go over the top. It all boils down to turnout. Again.