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Battleground: An early vote advantage

The Washington Post, covering yesterday's Obama conference call on the state of the race, notes what appears to be the Democrats' early-voting advantage. "A surge in early voting by Democrats marks a reversal of the pattern that helped Bush win in 2004 and makes McCain's task more difficult. So far, 200,000 more Democrats than Republicans have cast ballots in Florida, while 19 percent of Democratic early voters in North Carolina did not vote in 2004. 'The die is being cast as we speak,' Obama campaign manager David Plouffe asserted. 'On Election Day, Senator McCain is not going to have to just carry the day but carry it convincingly.'"

More: "In Florida, Plouffe said, Republicans finished with a 40,000-vote edge among early and absentee voters in 2004, while Democrats currently have a 200,000-vote lead. He said Obama is doing better with Hispanics, including Colombians, Puerto Ricans and young Cuban-Americans, than did Sen. John F. Kerry. 'We're kind of out of the land of theory in a lot of these states. You're beginning to see how this election is likely to unfold,' Plouffe said. 'We're confident that we've got a lot of good voters left.' In Iowa, Democrats have cast more absentee ballots than Republicans on every day but one since voting began, Plouffe said. In Nevada, 43 percent of early-voting Democrats are people who have not voted before or only sporadically. But Plouffe stopped short of predicting victory in the states he described, instead reiterating the campaign's long-standing goal of expanding the map."

The New York Times looks at Obama's strategy of campaigning in conservative parts of battleground states -- like Springfield, MO, which Obama will visit today. "For Mr. Obama, the destination underscores a closing strategy of trying to increase Democratic vote totals in all regions of the country, with an eye on winning more swing states as well as increasing the popular vote. It also suggests an air of confidence at his standing elsewhere by scheduling a rally in a Missouri county that President Bush carried by 17 points in 2000 and 25 points in 2004."

ARIZONA: The LA Times offers a piece on tightening polls in Arizona. One irony -- an issue that appears, at least anecdotally, to be hurting McCain in his home state is his eschewing of earmarks, which Democrats in Arizona say are vital to their state's growth.

COLORADO: Mitt Romney stumps for McCain this weekend in Colorado.  The venue? Mr. Biggs Family Fun Center in Colorado Springs.

A whopping HALF of Colorado voters will have cast their ballots before Election Day. 

FLORIDA: The Miami Herald on the Hispanic vote: "[An] exit poll of more than 8,683 voters was paid for by the Democratic firm Bendixen & Associates and showed that McCain is winning 69 percent of voters in Miami-Dade who were born in Cuba, compared to Bush's 78 percent in 2004. The poll does not include results from the GOP-heavy absentee ballots but shows that while McCain is leading overall among Hispanic voters 53 to 47 percent, in Miami-Dade, Cubans, Venezuelans and Nicaraguans favor McCain. Respondents born in Colombia, Argentina, Peru, Mexico, the Honduras, the Dominican Republican and Puerto Rico lean toward Obama."

GEORGIA: An estimated 35% of Georgia voters will cast ballots before Election Day, some waiting in line for hours. 
NEVADA: Salon's Madden, on Nevada: "The trouble for McCain is that in the state's biggest counties -- Clark, which includes Vegas, and Washoe, where Reno is -- he appears to be losing his shirt faster than a problem gambler on the strip with a roll of quarters burning a hole in his pocket."

NORTH CAROLINA: High turnout in crucial Wake County forced an extension of early voting hours yesterday. 
PENNSYLVANIA: Ambinder points out: "If it's all about Pennsylvania, then the Obama campaign is betraying a certain confidence. At this point, there are no plans for Sen. Obama to visit the state between now and Tuesday."