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Early Voting: Another Reason Why It Matters

A dispatch from CBS News pollster Anthony Salvanto...

Early and absentee voting is under way in lot of states – including, now, in the battleground of Ohio – and the Obama campaign is pressing hard for voters to take advantage of it.

That may not be just they're looking to boost turnout.

Because Obama fared poorly with late-deciding voters in many primaries, early voting could make or break his fortunes. Granted, this will be a different electorate, but if those primary trends hold, Obama would want to build vote margins now.

For instance: in the Ohio primary, Obama lost to Hillary Clinton by 57% to 41% among those who decided within a week of that election. Obama did a bit better getting 45% among those who'd decided earlier.

In Pennsylvania he lost Election-day deciders 59% to 41%. As in Ohio, he did a little worse among those who decided within a week of Election Day (42%) compared to those who decided earlier (47%.)

In Virginia, where Obama won the primary handily, he performed poorest among Election Day deciders than among any other time-of-decision group, winning by a mere 1 point. By contrast Obama took at least 60% of the vote among those who'd decided earlier.

In Indiana, Obama lost 57%-43% among those deciding within a week of the election (which cost him a win in that primary.) He won among those who'd made their choice before that. In North Carolina, where he won, he got the late-deciders.

So watch the early voting turnout figures in the coming weeks – and also watch for state polls that report vote choice among those who've already cast ballots. These could be more than indicators of turnout. It is possible the election is being decided right now.

(Notes: Ohio has opened same-day absentee voting now through October 6th; absentee ballots are available now in Virginia and in Pennsylvania but the number cast isn't expected to be high; North Carolina starts one-stop absentee voting in mid-October and could have one-third of its votes cast early or absentee.)

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