Tea leaves and early voting
It is tempting to see evidence of a Democratic leaning enthusiasm gap when examining trends in the early voting data released by the state's election board, but national political observers say: Resist that urge.
In Maryland the numbers show that Democratic voters have cast 63 percent of the vote so far -- even though the make up 56 percent of the electorate, a trend the Sun reported in a story for Wednesday's paper. Republicans, on the other hand, made up 27 percent of the vote, doing slightly better than their 26 percent registration.
The data would seem to show that Maryland is already bucking the predicted tend of highly energized GOP voters this year. After all, if the Rs were truly excited about Maryland's race, wouldn't the numbers show them flocking to the polls ahead of the allegedly disgruntled Democrats?
Jennifer Duffy, of The Cook Political Report, warned that the data is best used as a progress report for the competing D and R early voting programs. Indeed, the Democrats seem to be reaching more people on a nightly basis, though the GOP in Maryland claim they are exceeding goals.
George Mason University's Michael McDonald, who this week got into a lively debate with The New York Times' Nate Silver on this very topic, says early voting seems to be tracking pollsters' predicted outcomes in a number of states. But, he argues that the most insightful way of looking at the figures is to compare them with the turnout breakdowns by party from previous elections. Such a comparison is impossible here where early voting is brand new.
Todd Eberly, of St. Mary's College of Maryland, takes a stab at Mason's suggested analysis anyway and notes that in the September primary GOP voters stayed away from early voting places, but percentage-wise turned out more than Dems when the election was over.
Bottom line: Fun as this is, we're just not going to know much until Nov. 3.