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Obama and Romney project early voting bravado in battleground Ohio

 

Updated 12:56 p.m. - Each presidential campaign's bravado about who has momentum in the closing stretch of the campaign has extended to early voting, with Democrats and Republicans each claiming an advantage Thursday in the battleground state of Ohio.

President Barack Obama's campaign said early voting in counties and precincts which Obama won in 2008 is humming along at a better pace than that last election. Moreover, Obama national field director Jeremy Bird wrote, early voting in Democratic portions of Ohio is exceeding early voting in Republican corners of the Buckeye State.

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Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney greets supporters during a campaign rally on Oct. 25, 2012 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (EDITORS NOTE: Image was created using an iPhone and processed with the Instagram application)

Republicans countered with a memo arguing that most of the early voters touted by the Obama campaign were likely to vote Democratic anyway, thereby eating into their Election Day turnout.

"In states where Democrats have more early votes (IA, OH, NV) they are investing significant resources in turning out “high propensity voters” – those who have voted in either 3 or 4 of the past 4 general elections," a Republican National Committee memo argued Thursday.

 

The RNC said that there were about a million Democratic voters, of whom, about 43 percent had requested an absentee ballot or had already voted. By contrast, the RNC said there were over 1.3 million Republicans in Ohio, only about 27 percent of whom had voted early or requested an absentee ballot.

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"This means there are 380,022 more Republican high propensity voters who haven’t voted early in the electorate," the memo said. "In contrast, Democrats are diluting their ability to perform on Election Day."

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Lost in the arguments are a few details, most importantly being that Ohio doesn't formally register voters by party. A "Republican" or "Democrat," for purposes of each campaign's accounting, refers to whichever primary in which an Ohioan recently voted.

"When the Romney campaign boasts that Republicans are out-performing their voter registration, they forget to tell you that Ohio doesn’t have party registration," Bird wrote. "And because Republicans had a competitive primary this year and Democrats did not, Republicans naturally have a 460,000-person edge this year among past primary voters—what Romney’s campaign is disingenuously referring to as 'registered Republicans.'"

The reality of the situation probably lies somewhere in between both campaigns' claims.

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In Ohio itself, Obama leads Romney, 60 percent to 30 percent, among those who have already voted, according to a TIME magazine poll released Wednesday.

For some voters, though, there's still some appeal to waiting on line on the day of the election itself and voting.

"I think a lot of people want to vote the day of the election. They don't want to vote early. I don't know why. I'm doing it as well. I think they like the camaraderie of it," said Kim Pedigo, a substitute teacher from Cincinnati and Romney supporter who attended the GOP nominee's rally this morning. "I like to be there at the poll. I like to see what's happening. Its fun."

Both Obama and Romney have stressed early voting in their campaign appearances, and on Thursday, Obama himself will be the first president to make an early vote in person when he travels to Chicago to cast his ballot.

Obama would qualify as the kind of "high-propensity" voter that Republicans argue Democrats have targeted in a state like Ohio, at the expense of their Election Day turnout. The Obama campaign argued earlier this week that it's doing something different: urging unlikely voters to vote early, so that it can more efficiently target the remaining low-propensity voters on Nov. 6.

These factors make it even more difficult to divine which way Ohio -- arguably the most important swing state this election, given its potential to significantly ease either Obama or Romney's path to the White House -- is trending.

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Obama senior adviser David Axelrod might have best summed up these dueling claims about the early vote in a conference call earlier this week touting the Obama campaign's own organizational prowess.

"We'll know who is bluffing and who isn't in two weeks," he said.

NBC's Garrett Haake contributed from Ohio.