weather icon Clear
RJ App
Vegas News, Alerts, ePaper

Early voting trends suggest good news for GOP candidates

Republicans seemed to be slightly more enthusiastic in the first two days of early voting, but it’s too early to tell whether the energy can outweigh a voter registration advantage that favors Democrats.

The early energy advantage — what pundits call an enthusiasm gap — is most evident in Washoe County where Democratic and Republican registration is about even at 39 percent each.

During the first two days of early voting Republicans made up 48 percent of the total number of voters casting ballots while Democrats were 39 percent, meaning Republicans’ turnout outperformed their registration level by 9 percentage points.

In Clark County, the enthusiasm gap was narrower. In the first two days of early voting the turnout was 47 percent Democrat, and 38 percent Republican. Democrats outperformed their registration level by 1 percentage point and Republicans by 4 percentage points.

In the 3rd Congressional District, where Rep. Dina Titus, D-Nev., and Republican Joe Heck are locked in a close race, Republicans were 41 percent of the early total, an improvement of 5 percentage points over their registration level. Democrats turned out at a rate of 44 percent, a 2 percentage point improvement over their registration level.

Statewide a total of 41,210 people voted on the first weekend of early voting. That is less than 4 percent of the total number of about 1.1 million active registered voters, making it difficult to draw many conclusions.

Political observers said the figures from Washoe County probably will please supporters of Republican Sharron Angle who is challenging U.S. Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., in one of the most-watched campaigns in the country.

"That is obviously Sharron Angle’s base of support," said David Damore, professor of political science at University of Nevada, Las Vegas. "At this point I think you can take that as an indicator of enthusiasm."

As expected, the early voting trends this year are different than in 2008 presidential election when Democrat Barack Obama swept Nevada and much of the nation en route to victory over Republican John McCain.

Obama attracted strong support from independents and first-time voters who are not showing up in nearly the same numbers this year, which is typical difference between presidential and mid-term elections.

In 2008, nearly 46,000 voters cast ballots during the first two days of early voting in Clark County compared with fewer than 30,000 this year.

And the 2008 turnout was 60 percent Democrats and 24 percent Republicans countywide during the first two days. In the 3rd Congressional District, where Titus knocked off incumbent Republican Jon Porter, the early Democratic advantage was 57 to 27 over Republicans.

This year is more like the 2006 mid-term, when Clark County turnout the first two days was 47-39 for Democrats countywide and 45-42 for Democrats in the 3rd Congressional District, when Porter won re-election in the district.

"That is good news for Joe Heck," Damore said.

The early vote is seen as an indicator of enthusiasm because it shows which voters are champing at the bit to cast a ballot.

"Early voters are ones who had already made up their mind and want to go the polls," said Eric Herzik, a professor of political science at University of Nevada, Reno. "In 2008, those were Obama voters. In 2010, those are more likely to be Republicans and perhaps Angle supporters."

Though Republicans might have energy on their side, they’re still battling the Democrats’ numerical and organizational advantages.

Statewide there are about 60,000 more registered Democrats than Republicans. And Democrats built a massive organization in Nevada for 2008 that Reid and the state party are leaning on to deliver again in 2010.

"Republicans have only been in my neighborhood once, and the Democrats have been there five or six times," Damore said of his neighborhood in the 3rd Congressional District.

Herzik said that in general, the Washoe County numbers look good for Republicans, but the Clark County figures are inconclusive.

Whatever enthusiasm gap exists appears to be narrower in Nevada than what pundits forecast for the nation this season.

"If I’m the Democrats, it is not bad news," Herzik said. "It is arguably not the best news in the world. If this looks like 2006, they can probably live with that."

Early voting continues for 11 more days through Oct. 29. Election Day is Nov. 2.

Contact reporter Benjamin Spillman at bspillman@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3861.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.