• 2008: percentage of total absentee ballots cast of registered voters: 42
• 2010: percentage of total absentee ballots cast of registered voters (so far): 11.9
• Of all 2008 early votes cast, 51 percent were by registered Democrats, 30 percent by registered Republicans and 18 percent by unaffiliated voters.
• Of all 2010 early votes cast (so far), 45 percent are by registered Democrats, 37 percent by registered Republicans, and 17 percent by unaffiliated voters.
This means, to me, that Republicans learned the Obama lesson of 2008 and are using early voting to bank core supporters -- meaning that they are outperforming their statewide voter registration figure of 32 percent. Along with the energy and enthusiasm levels of Republicans, this is a serious dent in Democrats' performance from just two years ago.
Mecklenburg County is seeing an overperformance by registered Republicans to cast their votes (39 percent of early votes cast in Mecklenburg are from registered Republicans, who make up 28 percent of the voters), while Democratic voters are underperforming (registered Democrats make up 43 percent, compared to 46 percent of all registered voters). Especially noteworthy is that unaffiliated voters are significantly under-performing, making up only 18 percent of the early votes cast, compared to making up 26 percent of the registered voters in the county.
We know from the past exit polls that if you say you are identify with one party or the other, you will vote that way 89-93 percent of the time in North Carolina (slightly higher levels for Republicans than Democrats, but still 9 in 10 times you vote that way). And independent (unaffiliated) voters voted 57/40 Republican/Democrat in 2006 and 53/45 Republican/Democrat in 2008. My bet this year is that independent voters break 60/40 Republican/Democrat, so if that trend holds, Republicans may be making sufficient ground to overcome Democratic voter registration and patterns in a number of key races in the state.
In terms of voting by specific groups on a statewide basis:
• Women who cast early vote in 2008: 55 percent were registered Democrats, 28 percent were registered Republicans and 17 percent were registered unaffiliated voters.
• Women who are casting early votes so far in 2010: 51 percent registered Democrats, 35 percent registered Republicans and 15 percent registered unaffiliated voters.
• Men who are casting early votes in 2008: 47 percent registered Democrats, 33 percent registered Republicans and 20 percent registered unaffiliated voters.
• Men who are casting early votes so far in 2010: 40 percent registered Democrats, 40 percent registered Republicans and 19 percent registered unaffiliated voters.
There appears from the early voting patterns to be a definite gender gap going on, but Republican women are making inroads within female voters. Registered male voters are definitely going back to their usual ways, which is Republican.
• White voters statewide who cast early votes in 2008: 37 percent were registered Democrats, 42 percent were registered Republicans and 21 percent were registered unaffiliated voters.
• White voters who are casting early votes so far in 2010 statewide: 34 percent registered Democrats, 47 percent registered Republicans and 19 percent registered unaffiliated voters. They make up 78 percent of all the early votes cast so far.
• Black voters statewide who cast early votes in 2008: 89 percent were registered Democrats, 2 percent were registered Republicans and 9 percent were registered unaffiliated.
• Black voters who are casting early votes so far in 2010 statewide: 92 percent are registered Democrats, 1 percent are registered Republicans and 6 percent are registered unaffiliated. They make up 19 percent of all the early votes cast so far.
Of course, we won't know what these specific votes are until Tuesday, but I think with the typical party identification associated with voting preferences, we may be seeing the early waves of the expected Republican landslide. And these could be warning signs for conservative Democrats like Larry Kissell, Mike McIntyre and Heath Shuler.