Markos Moulitsas: Will Dems turn out?

Markos Moulitsas: Will Dems turn out?
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Republicans have a cornucopia of advantages this election cycle: a favorable Senate map, a heavily gerrymandered House, an unpopular Democratic president in his sixth year in office, and the typical non-election-year drop-off in base Democratic voter turnout. 

It’s amazing to think that they might blow it.

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A sane Republican Party would have already locked up the Senate majority, guaranteed big gains in the House, and be on pace to hold big 2010 gubernatorial pickups. Instead, Senate control will come down to a few thousand or even just hundreds of votes in several key states, while Democrats are close to notching big gains in gubernatorial races. Ultimately, turnout efforts will have an inordinate amount of influence on the final outcome of this 50-50 electorate. 

Republicans have little to worry about on turnout. Their base voters are among the most reliable — whiter and older. In response to their low-performing base, Senate Democrats are pouring more than $60 million into their field program, hoping to emulate the ground-game magic that propelled Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaMichelle Obama and Jennifer Lopez exchange Ginsburg memories Pence defends Trump's 'obligation' to nominate new Supreme Court justice The militia menace MORE to his easy presidential victories. The early vote gives us clues as to how Democrats will turn out.

Georgia is shaping up to be a success, with Democrats registering up to an amazing 250,000 new voters. Of the 183,000 new voters processed, only a third are white voters. Republicans are dragging their heels on another 40,000 registrations, and lawyers are now involved. Among those who have already cast ballots, 20 percent had not cast a ballot in 2010, and those are less white than reliable voters — important because Democrats need to expand the electorate, not merely shift reliable votes from Election Day to mail. 

In North Carolina, 32 percent of early voters didn’t vote in 2010, and Democrats lead among them 41 to 33 percent. Among regular voters, Republicans lead 41 to 38 percent. Combined, this gives Democrats a narrow 39.2 to 38.5 percent lead (as of late Monday), well above their 10-point, 35-45 early-ballot deficit in 2010. There’s still time for Republicans to re-establish the early-vote gap, but at least for now, it shows that a 2010-style intensity gap favoring the GOP hasn’t materialized. 

In Florida (not a Senate battleground, but a gubernatorial one), nearly 900,000 votes have already been cast, with Republicans holding a 13-point, 48 to 35 percent lead. In all of 2010, Republicans won the early vote 52-34, or by 18 points — an election that incumbent Republican Gov. Rick Scott eventually won by only a single point. Another 1.6 million ballots were requested but have yet to be returned, and Democrats lead 41 to 38 percent among those. 

In Iowa, which has been voting the longest, Democrats currently have a 2-point advantage in returned ballots, compared to 8 points last week and at the same point in 2010. Despite the closing gap, Democrats have gotten 19 percent more returned ballots than they had at this point four years ago. And while Republicans boast that their numbers are up 52 percent, remember that those Republicans were going to vote anyway. Time shifting their votes from Election Day to mail isn’t noteworthy; indeed, among the 31,000 early Iowa voters who did not vote in 2010, Democrats lead 2-1.

We have to wait until election night to gauge the effectiveness of Democratic base mobilization efforts, but if the early vote is any indication, Democrats are alive and kicking in a year when they should, by all rights, be facing a wave of defeats. 

Moulitsas is the founder and publisher of Daily Kos.