African-Americans voting early in large numbers, campaign says

A sign reading 'Vote' is held upduring a rally for President Barack Obama on the first day of early voting in the presidential electoin outside of the voting center setup in the Stephen P. Clark Government Center on October 27, 2012 in Miami, Florida. Early voting in one of the important swing states is held for eight straight 12-hour days, leading up to the November 6 general election. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

A sign reading 'Vote' is held upduring a rally for President Barack Obama on the first day of early voting in the presidential electoin outside of the voting center setup in the Stephen P. Clark Government Center on October 27, 2012 in Miami, Florida. Early voting in one of the important swing states is held for eight straight 12-hour days, leading up to the November 6 general election. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

In Florida, the state’s Democratic Party reported that Democrats had cast more early votes than Republicans overall, despite a continued deficit in absentee voting. According to Florida Democrats, Democrats outpaced Republicans in early voting in Broward, Alachua, Duval, Miami-Dade, Orange and St. Lucie counties, and the campaign reported in a campaign memo that:

  • The number of registered Hispanics has increased by more than 300,000 since November 2008, and only 31,000 registered as Republicans.  This means that just 10% of the increase in Hispanic registrations was accounted for by Republicans.  The other 90% accrued to Democrats and independents.
  • The African-American, Caribbean-American and Hispanic registered voter population increased by more than 450,000.  To put this number in perspective, note that in 2008, Barack Obama won Florida by 236,450 votes (2.8 percentage points). 

Obama is counting on an electorate that is comprised of at least 26 percent non-white voters; the composition of the electorate in 2008. The percentage of voters who are non-white has risen approximately 2 percent every four years for the last 20 years, and the campaign early on estimated the 2012 share would be 28 percent. That would counteract Mitt Romney’s historically high share of the white vote, which has been seen in most national polls. This election is shaping up to be one of the most racially-polarized in modern history, social scientists say, but Obama can afford to underperform his 41 percent share of white voters with strong turnout by black and Latino voters, both of whom prefer him over Romney by wide margins.

NBC Latino: Record participation of Latino voters expected in 2012, 8 percent already voted

As veteran political reporter Ron Brownstein explained in the National Journal in August:

For President Obama, the winning formula can be reduced to 80/40. In 2008, Obama won a combined 80 percent of the votes of all minority voters, including not only African-Americans but also Hispanics, Asians, and others. If Obama matches that performance this year, he can squeak out a national majority with support from about 40 percent of whites—so long as minorities at least match the 26 percent of the vote they cast last time.

Obama’s strategic equation defines Mitt Romney’s formula: 61/74. Romney’s camp is focused intently on capturing at least 61 percent of white voters. That would provide him a slim national majority—so long as whites constitute at least 74 percent of the vote, as they did last time, and Obama doesn’t improve on his 80 percent showing with minorities.

Some polls, notably the Gallup Poll, are projecting an electorate that has fewer non-white voters than the Obama campaign anticipates (Gallup projects an 11 percent African-American vote share vs the 13 percent reported by exit polls in 2008). And that matters since, as pollster Mark Blumenthal has pointed out in the Huffington Post:

The need to weight accurately by race and ancestry is particularly significant when it comes to evaluating the contest between Obama and Romney. As Gallup itself reported in early May, Romney led Obama among non-Hispanic white voters by 54 to 37 percent, while the president had the support of more than three-quarters of non-white registered voters (77 percent). Obama’s support among African Americans on Gallup’s tracking poll stood at 90 percent.

That gap makes the way pollsters account for race hugely important. When pollsters weight their samples to match population demographics, every percentage point increase in black representation translates into a nearly one-point improvement in Obama’s margin against Romney. The difference of just a few percentage points in the non-white composition of a poll can produce a significant skew in its horse race results.

It remains to be seen who is right. We will all know after November 6th.

Follow Joy Reid on Twitter at @thereidreport.