The Republican Party is keeping pace in mail-in and early voting in three key swing states despite polls showing early voting should clearly favor Joe Biden.
Data out of Michigan, Wisconsin, and Ohio indicates that registered Republicans are returning ballots at about the same rate as registered Democrats in the battleground states.
In Michigan as of Wednesday, just over 1 million ballots have been returned, 40% from registered Democrats, with the same from registered Republicans. In Wisconsin, 40% of the 711,855 returned ballots have been from Democrats, while 38% have come from Republicans. The GOP actually leads in Ohio, with 45% of 475,259 early ballot returns coming from Republicans, compared to 43% from registered Democrats. The preliminary data matches up with the requests by party affiliation for mail-in ballots.
The data contradicts national polls showing Biden supporters overwhelmingly plan to vote by mail or early in person. According to a Pew Research poll released Friday, 55% of voters who plan to cast their ballot in person before Election Day support Biden, compared to 40% who support President Trump.
Biden’s lead is even larger among those who plan to or already have voted by mail, with 69% saying they support Biden, compared to just 27% who support Trump. On the other hand, Trump leads those who plan to vote in person on Election Day, 63%-31%. Pew’s findings echo those of an Axios survey last month, which showed similar splits between those who plan to vote early and those that plan to vote on Election Day.
However, voters in the Rust Belt don’t always vote for the party they are registered with. Michigan, Wisconsin, and Ohio went to former President Barack Obama in 2012, then flipped to Trump in 2016. Combined, the three swing states are worth 44 electoral votes
In 2016, working class voters in the rust belt handed Trump the presidency, which the New York Times dubbed the Obama-Trump Voter. A “study found that fully 18 percent of white working-class voters who leaned Democratic as late as December 2015 reported leaning Republican by December 2016,” according to the outelt.
But some, including Peggy Lehner, a Republican state senator in Ohio from a district Trump won in 2016, aren’t painting such a rosy picture for his 2020 chances with the same constituency. His support hasn’t “ebbed. It’s crashed,” Lehner, who will not run for reelection, said. “He is really doing poorly among independents.”
Not all of the early voting data is good news for Republicans. In other key swing states such as Florida, Democrats lead 51%-29%. Democrats lead even larger in North Carolina, which has so far returned 51% of ballots from Democrats, with only 18% from Republicans. The GOP faces its largest deficit in the swing state of Pennsylvania, with Democrats leading 77%-15%.
“There’s a big wave of Republicans coming. And frankly, that’s a data point that a lot of people tweeting about this fail to realize,” said Steve Schale, the head of the pro-Biden super PAC Unite the Country,regarding the numbers in Florida.
“The numbers are pretty staggering for us, and the return rates and the polling look good,” Schale said. “But there’s just a lot we don’t know.”
Susie Wiles, Trump’s campaign director in Florida, remains optimistic about her candidate’s chances in the state.
“Voting in Florida is a marathon. And what you’re seeing is a bit of a sprint from the Democrats,” Wiles said. “But we have far more high-propensity voters on our side. That should be noted in all the hype about the Democrats’ lead. We’re not finished. We’re turning our sights to early in-person voting and to Election Day.”
Trump defeated Hillary Clinton in all three swing states in 2016, for a combined total haul of 64 electoral votes. Republicans believe the bulk of their turnout will come on Election Day.