Early vote appears to favor GOP, but Democrats hopeful

By Christy Hoppe, Dallas News

San Antonio voters lined up last week for early balloting in the Nov. 4 elections.

More than 1 million Texas voters had already cast their ballots as of Monday morning, and while the early numbers certainly appear to skew Republican, it prompts the question: Why are the Democrats smiling?

Republican consultant Craig Murphy has run the names of early voters through a computer program that helps decipher whether they probably have voted for his client, gubernatorial candidate Greg Abbott, and other Republicans. The predictions are based on such data as which primary the voters participated in, their neighborhood, precinct, gender, age and race.

“It looks great for the Republicans right now,” Murphy said.

He shared his database, which showed that thus far, 56 percent of voters statewide are reliably Republican, compared with 37 percent being regular Democratic voters.

Murphy said he believes the GOP edge will probably trend downward toward the end of the week. Historical voting trends show that GOP voters start out strong, and then Democrats build steam in the final days of early voting, which ends Friday. Election Day is Nov. 4.

Murphy said the real numbers show that Democrats, who are sounding confident on the campaign trail with a week to go, are spinning wildly.

“They should stop having a candidate that is saying how great things are going in early voting when they’re clearly not,” he said.

Democrat Wendy Davis has been barnstorming the state exhorting students at colleges, black voters at churches and women at phone banks to get to the polls. She beams optimism and has said the numbers are looking good for her and Democrats.

Davis campaign spokesman Zac Petkanas points to overall numbers, compared with the race for governor four years ago between Republican Rick Perry and Democrat Bill White, that show Democrats are mailing in more ballots and minorities are voting in greater numbers.

He said early numbers shows a 4 percent uptick in the number of black voters and a 12 percent growth in Hispanics over the same voting period in 2010. Both groups tend to heavily favor Democrats.

“We’re starting off more diverse. We are incredibly encouraged,” Petkanas said. In-person voting is slightly down from four years ago, and Petkanas said “the stagnant numbers are Republicans not voting.”

Davis is relying on strong support from women, who traditionally make up more than 52 percent of the electorate. That is holding true in early voting.

But so far, according to numbers from Murphy’s firm, half the women coming to the polls are reliable Republicans, while 42 percent are Democrats.

Hispanics have been the target of tremendous outreach by Abbott, who has said he hopes to get nearly half the Latino vote. But about 68 percent of the Hispanic voters so far are historically Democrats.

Murphy said what the numbers can’t show is when there is a shift in historical voting patterns.

“Sure, Hispanics show Democratic affiliation, but that doesn’t mean they’re not voting for Greg Abbott,” Murphy said. “Even using history as a guide, we’re doing great. But history won’t show us getting 49 percent of the Hispanic vote.”

He said polling, targeting and door-to-door contact are indicating a large shift in alliances among Latino voters.

Petakanas scoffed at that. “Any reasonable observer knows that Wendy Davis is breaking away with the Latino voter,” he said.

Democrats also have lauded Battleground Texas — a creation of former organizers for President Barack Obama’s campaigns — as a party-building machine in the state.

So far, the numbers could show some inroads. Almost 1 out of 10 early voters had a low probability of turning out, meaning they had been registered but historically had not shown up to vote.

Now, more than 100,000 have voted, and they appear to skew Democratic 4-to-1.

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