While polls show the presidential race tightening, President Obama's and Mitt Romney's campaign advisers on Thursday were pointing to their respective voter-registration efforts and early voting tallies in several swing states as evidence that their candidate has the upper hand.
Overall, Democrats have a lead in party registration in most battleground states. The Obama campaign notes that Democrats have registered more voters than Republicans in key states in the past three months, evidence that the Obama ground game is outperforming Team Romney as the candidates head toward Nov. 6.
"Registered voters, ballots requested and early votes cast, those numbers are telling the real story of this election," said Jim Messina, Obama's campaign manager, in a call with reporters ahead of Thursday's vice presidential debate. "In nearly every battleground state, our margins are bigger than they were in 2008. We've registered more voters than in '08, we've knocked on more doors and we've talked to more people."
The Romney campaign shot back that they have slight leads or are even with Obama in early voting or absentee balloting in four battleground states -- Nevada, Florida, Colorado and New Hampshire. Romney holds a 25% lead in absentee balloting in North Carolina.
"Our early-vote numbers are outperforming voter registration in battleground states, demonstrating the strength of our ground game and the excitement for the Romney-Ryan ticket," said Rich Beeson, Romney's political director. "Not only are we keeping pace with the vaunted Obama machine, but we believe our ground game will put us over the finish line on Election Day."
Overall, Republicans hold a slight registration advantage in Colorado and New Hampshire, while Democrats have the voter-registration advantages in Florida, Iowa, Nevada, North Carolina and Pennsylvania. Voters in Ohio, Virginia and Wisconsin do not register with a party.
In Ohio, 537,000 ballots have been requested in precincts that went for Obama in 2008, compared with 503,000 ballots that were requested from voters in precincts that voted for Republican nominee John McCain, according to an Obama campaign memo. The Republican National Committee, in turn, says it has received a higher percentage of absentee ballot requests in some of the Buckeye State's largest counties, including Cuyahoga and Franklin, than the percentage of voters that participate in GOP primaries.
In Iowa, Obama leads Romney by 22 points among voters who cast early ballots. The lead, while sizeable, is smaller than the 29-point lead he held at the same time in 2008.
With the exception of Colorado, which Obama won in 2008, Democrats are doing better this year versus 2008 in every battleground state that allows voting by mail, said Jeremy Bird, Obama's national field director.
Republicans are outpacing Democrats in requests for absentee ballots in Colorado, North Carolina and Florida. In Florida, which represents the prize of 29 electoral votes, absentee ballots among registered Republicans were up 4.4 percent from 2008.
Polls in all three states show Obama and Romney remain in a tight race, and get-out-the-vote efforts by both sides in the final days could be crucial to who wins.
Both sides are also urging their supporters to use early voting options when available. At a campaign stop on the campus of the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Fla., on Thursday, Obama pointed to the first day of early voting there as the big day.
"On Oct. 27," he said, "you can choose whether we go back to the policies that got us into this mess, or you can choose to keep moving forward with policies that have been getting us out of this mess."
Obama aides also contend that most new voter registrants in swing states are women, young voters and minorities, groups that voted overwhelmingly for the president in 2008.
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