WASHINGTON -- President Obama appears to have built a lead in earlyand absentee voting ahead of Election Day in several battlegroundstates, but the early-vote cushion over GOP nominee Mitt Romney is notas big as the one he held four years ago over Sen. John McCain.
Morethan 29.5 million Americans have already cast ballots in 34 states andthe District of Columbia, according to statistics compiled by the UnitedStates Election Project at George Mason University in Virginia.
Itis important to note that no ballots have been counted yet, but severalstates offer information about party affiliation of the voters castingearly ballots - a telling sign of how both sides are doing in turningout the vote ahead of Election Day.
Democrats lead in four of thefive battleground states where local officials track early voters byparty identification: Florida, Iowa, Nevada and North Carolina. InColorado, Republicans have a slight edge over Democrats, a reversalfrom four years ago, when Democrats outpaced Republicans in the earlyvote and Obama went on to win the state.
Republicans point totheir stepped-up effort, as well as smaller leads in early voting forObama in several key states than in 2008, as signals that Romney willovertake the president on Tuesday.
Where things stand going into Election Day in six closely fought states:
Colorado. Polls and early-voting numbers suggest that Colorado will remain very close to the end.
Morethat 1.6 million voters have cast early ballots here, and thus far,38,000 more Republicans have cast ballots than Democrats. More than aquarter of those who have cast ballots are unaffiliated voters.
In 2008, Obama narrowly edged McCain for early ballots and won the state by 8.6 percentage points.
Florida.More than 4.4 million voters have cast early or absentee ballots, withDemocrats holding a slight edge. About 246,000 more Democrats cast earlyvotes; 87,000 more Republicans cast absentee ballots. Obama had a9-point lead in early voting in 2008 and held on for a narrow victory onElection Day.
Early voting was scheduled to end on Saturday, butthe Florida Democratic Party filed lawsuits to get more early-votingtime for four counties in Democratic-leaning South Florida after severalcounties saw long lines.
On Sunday, a judge in Orange Countyordered an early voting site there to open for four more hours. The sitewas closed for several hours while authorities investigated asuspicious package.
Iowa. Democrats hold an 11-point edgein early voting, a smaller lead than Obama had in 2008 but still aformidable margin. One potential concern for Obama: 40,000 had notreturned their mail ballots, compared with 21,000 Republicans.
North Carolina.More than 2.5million voters have cast ballots, with registeredDemocrats holding a 47.6%-to-31.8% edge over Republicans. Democrats helda 21-point edge in early voting in 2008; Obama went on to a narrowvictory in the state.
Nevada. Obama holds a 7-point edgeover Romney in early voting here. The president won the early vote hereby more than 20 points in 2008 and won the state by 13 points.
Inorder for Romney to win Nevada, he would need to cut into theDemocrats' margins in Clark County, at least tie Washoe County and driveup turnout in rural Nevada, the Republican National Committee notes in amemo. There are signs that all three could happen, but it remains to beseen whether it will be enough.
Obama won't have as large anearly vote margin as he did four years ago, but senior aides areconfident that they are in good shape to win the state. Democrats have a40,000 early-vote lead, and two in three Nevada early voters are women,young people, African Americans or Latino, all groups that trend forObama, campaign manager Jim Messina says.
Ohio. The Buckeye State and its 18 electoral votes could decide who wins the election.
Morethan 1.6 million Ohioans have already cast ballots. Voters aren'trequired to register by party, so information about early voters ismore limited than in other states.
Messina said the Obama campaignhas done a better job getting out sporadic voters, particularly thosewho did not vote in the midterm elections in 2010. More than 179,000non-midterm voters from counties Obama won in 2008 have cast ballots,compared with 91,000 from Republican-leaning counties.
Republicans counter that absentee and early voting is 12% higher in counties McCain won than the counties Obama won.