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Ohio shocker: GOP closes early voting gap, boosting Romney

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Politics,Paul Bedard,Washington Secrets

In a remarkable reversal of fortune for President Obama in Ohio, the GOP has closed the huge gap in absentee ballot requests used by early voters that favored the Democrats and the president in 2008, setting up what one state analyst said could be a Mitt Romney blowout on Election Day.

While in 2008, 33 percent of the 1,158,301 absentee ballots went to Democrats and just 19 percent to registered Republicans, a 14-point gap, this year 29 percent are being requested by Democrats and 24 percent by Republicans, a five-point gap.

And in a sign that the enthusiasm of 2008 voters is depressed, just 638,997 absentee ballots have been requested, according to American Majority Action, which culled the statistics together from Ohio college professors who are tracking the state's absentee ballots used for early voting. The group provided Secrets with the details.

Even more dramatic, while the GOP has cut the Democratic advantage in early voting throughout the state, the changes favoring the Republicans in certain counties has been huge. In Franklin County, home to Columbus, for example, a 2008 Democratic advantage of 5 percent is now a 5 percent GOP advantage. In Cuyahoga County, home to Democratic Cleveland, the GOP has shaved six points off the Democrat's 2008 advantage. And in Hamilton County, home to Cincinnati, Republicans have expanded their 2008 advantage to 13 percent.

University of Dayton Professor Larry Schweikart told American Majority Action President Ned Ryun that the GOP gains favor Romney. "Although it is early, we will soon be at a point where--assuming Republicans vote for Romney--the Democrats will have to overwhelmingly win all the remaining early voting just to be even on November 6. But, given Ohio's voting history, if the numbers are even close after early voting, Obama will lose, and possibly lose big."

Ryun, whose group has opened voter registration efforts in Ohio and other swing states, said that the Buckeye State's efforts to clean up voter rolls has also played a part in tightening the gap. He said that 450,000 dead voters and duplicate registrations have been nixed, and the majority were Democrats.

"Considering Obama won the state by 263,000 votes, Ohio's cleaner rolls could make a big impact," Ryun said. He added, "The five largest counties in Ohio have all shifted at least 6 percent and as much as 27 percent to the Republicans since 2008. While the polls show an Obama lead, these real votes--assuming registered voters vote for their candidate--demonstrate a Republican shift since 2008."

Ryun sent this to Secrets from his analysis of Ohio early voting:

In 2008, there were 1,158,301 total absentee ballots requested, 33 percent registered Democrat and 19 percent registered Republican--a 14 point gap. So far in 2012, 638,997 ballots have been requested, 29 percent Democrat and 24 percent Republican--only a five point gap.

The Republicans have shrunk the gap nine percent overall since 2008, but when we examine key counties in Ohio, the numbers become even more dramatic.

--Champaign County: Was +3% GOP, now +23% GOP - 20 point shift.

--Columbiana County: Was +9% DEM, now +9% GOP - 18 point shift.

--Crawford County: Was +3% DEM, now +12% GOP - 15 point shift.

--Cuyahoga County: Was +36% DEM, now +30% DEM (GOP already has 6,000 more requests than in 2008) - 6 point shift.

--Erie County: Was +24% DEM, now +7% DEM -17 point shift.

--Franklin County: Was +5% DEM, now +5% GOP - 10 point shift.

--Greene County: Was +4% DEM, now +19% GOP - 23 point shift.

--Harrison County: Was +22% DEM, now +5% DEM - 17 point shift.

--Hamilton County: Was +7% GOP, now +13% GOP - 6 point shift.

--Licking County: Was TIED, now +16% GOP - 16 point shift.

--Montgomery County: Was +29% DEM, now +5% DEM - 24 point shift.

--Muskingum County: Was +1% DEM, now +16% GOP - 17 point shift.

--Pickaway County: Was +12% DEM, now +15% GOP - 27 point shift.

--Seneca County: Was +1% DEM, now +13% GOP - 14 point shift.

--Summit County: Was +33% DEM, now +6 DEM - 27 point shift.

--Wood County: Was +10% DEM, now +1% GOP - 11 point shift.