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I'm Brendan Loy, a 26-year-old graduate of USC and Notre Dame now living and working in Knoxville, Tennessee. My wife Becky and I are brand-new parents of a beautiful baby girl, born on New Year's Eve.

I'm a big-time sports fan, a politics, media & law junkie, an astronomy buff, a weather nerd, an Apple aficionado, a Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter fanatic, and an all-around dork. My blog is best-known for its coverage of Hurricane Katrina, but I blog about anything and everything that interests me.

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Early voting could create a Rudy surprise

The polls are open in Florida, where Mitt Romney and John McCain are in a knock-down, drag-out fight for Republican front-runner status. Even Rudy Giuliani says the winner of the Sunshine State's primary is likely to win the nomination -- a statement that has many folks speculating that Rudy will drop out if he loses, which polls suggest is extremely likely; he's in a battle for a distant third place with Mike Huckabee.

A word of caution about those polls, though. The polls are snapshots; the Florida primary is not. Floridians have actually been voting for weeks already. Absentee voting began in late December, and "early voting" started on January 14. As of last Friday, a whopping 400,000 Republicans had already voted. [UPDATE: Make that 474,000 through Sunday.] To give you an idea of how significant a number that is, a total of 699,500 voters cast ballots in Florida's 2000 GOP primary. Now, turnout will probably be much higher in 2008, since this year's primary is much more significant and hotly contested. (The 2000 primary was held a week after Super Tuesday; McCain had already conceded.) But even if the raw turnout total doubles, we're still talking about something on the order of one-third of the electorate having voted before election day. (Florida has 3.8 million registered Republicans. If 1.4 million of them vote, that'd be a 37% turnout -- which would be quite high for a primary.)

Giuliani's campaign has specifically tried to get their candidate's supporters in Florida to vote early (though hopefully not often), in hopes of "locking them in" before the inevitable decline in Rudy's momentum and poll numbers as the early-state results took their toll. As far as I know, the other candidates -- who, unlike Giuliani, actually focused their resources on competing in those early states -- have not focused on early and absentee voting nearly as much. So if Rudy does much better tonight than the current polls indicate, the reason is probably early voting.

[UPDATE: In comments, Derek suggests that I'm overstating the impact of early voting, as many of the pollsters have taken it into account. I didn't realize that.]

P.S. Judging from the RCP trend lines, absentee voting may also help Huckabee, who was running a close second to Giuliani throughout late December and early January, while early voting may help McCain, who consistently led Romney in the polls (albeit by a narrowish margin) during the first week the polls were open. The big loser from early/absentee voting would seem to be Romney, who has surged in recent days. He'll need strong election-day support to make up for his presumed deficit among those who voted before election day.

On the other hand, it also occurs to me that the standard polling models for determining who is a "likely voter" are probably thrown for a loop by early voting -- in other words, "snapshot" polls that captured the overall mood of the electorate at various points in the past month cannot necessarily be trusted to have captured the mood of those who were voting early during those same points in time. So, who knows? The main point is this: the ridiculously high level of early voting in Florida is an enormous wild card in today's race, and one that seems reasonably likely to redound to Giuliani's benefit (the big question is how much).

P.P.S. The prevalence of early voting also means that exit polls will be far less useful than usual, both in determining tonight's result in advance and in divining demographical and statistical information about who voted for whom and why. Exit pollsters will be missing ~33% of the electorate!


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Brendan, I think you overstate your claim with, "The polls are snapshots; the Florida primary is not." Most polls have been asking for results among those who've "already voted," and those early voters comprise at least a quarter of most polls. Results from those that have sampled so? (Obviously, the margin of error is greater for a smaller sub-sample like this.)

Insider Advantage: 29% of the sample already voted, 29.1% Romney, 29.0% McCain, 19.4% Giuliani, 16.2% Huckabee.
Survey USA: 25% of the sample already voted, 31% McCain, 30% Romney, 14% Giuliani, 14% Huckabee.

Even the "early voting" strategy has had an extremely limited effect on Giuliani.

Hmm. I didn't realize that. Interesting.

Well, we'll find out soon enough.

Gooooo Chaos!! Beeeeeat Order!! RUU-DY!! RUU-DY!! ;)

Tag cloud for the SotU.

The only surprise in Florida will be if Giuliani doesn't announce dropping out after tonight's results.

Do you really want Rudy to win Brendan?

To win the nomination? Not necessarily. To win Florida? Yes, because it's essential to the continued proliferation of CHAOS!!!


Sounds to me you are still on your BCS high from the 2007 college football season.

I'm so miserably sick of the coverage of this Presidential campaign. It seems as though it's purely coverage of the horse race, and not coverage of anything of real substance.

Coverage of the horse race encourages candidates to be pompom shakers and flag wavers instead of discussing the true issues facing the country and the policies they each would advocate to address them.

So the "McCain's leading by x%" and the "Can Obama pull ahead of Hillary" talk is really a great disservice to the American people by the media. I think a lot of bloggers fall into that same rut.

If we continue to be more focused on percentages, we will continue to get sound bite politics.

A pox on them all.

Jay Johnson, you are completely Correct. It's a disgrace. Seriously. / It's well symbolized by CNN's "Ballot Bowl" logo: like it really IS merely an athletic competition.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
That Said :} ~ Brendan, I too would love for Rudy to win Florida, which is just another way of saying that you didn't lick your Chaos Chromosome up off the grass :}. Rudy Won't win of course; but then again Finnegan, neither is his victory actually "...essential to the continued proliferation of..." ~ well, of Disorder, if not fullblown chaos, on the Republican side :>.

Here's why: we will still have Mike Huckabee, thank the Lord & shout "Hallelujah!" :) Yes & at The Pooper Duper in but One week's time, Pastor Huckster's already-strong standing in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia & Tennessee will be further enhanced by the withdrawal of Good Ol' Fred (even if said Fred does anoint McCain or Romney as his kindred Fredhead before then); and watch out also for Sheik Mike's Militia in Missouri, North Dakota, Oklahoma & West Virginia.


CHAOS '08!!!

McCain has gained a good amount on intrade in the past few hours. Maybe the exit polls are coming out strong for him.

PS ~ the Florida polls have McCain & Romney in essentially a statistical tie. / Assuming these samplings Do indeed factor in the Early Voting aspect, and prove Otherwise accurate too, then perhaps the actual Returns will show the same thing: a Statistical Tie.

In Florida.

For the winner-take-all slate of Electors Delegates.

WOO WOO!!! :)

Jay, I made the same argument on here before and challenged Brendan to actually discuss issues. I must admit that I prefer Hillary's stances on the issues - especially healthcare. However, the last week or so her win at any cost attitude has me following process over substance. Her campaign has backfired with me. I was a supporter but she's managed to drive me away.

When has Brendan not been willing to discuss issues? I have never noticed that as a problem.

I didn't mean my comment to necessarily ring out as an indictment against the way Brendan has commented on the election cycle. I generally think he's contributed a bit more than the average MSM type to the substance discussion. Plus, it's his blog, and he can blog about whatever he wants, however he wants.

To the extent he's focused on the horse race aspects (which is a decent bit), I'm critical, because I think it's degraded our system.

Polling, while it may ultimately prove out to be accurate, has become almost an effort at making a self-fulfilling prophecy in elections.

The pollsters have a distinct motivation in showing themselves to be accurate. They continue to push polling data down our throats and the MSM glad to have the opportunity to take a nap instead of cover actual news, takes the manufactured story worldwide.

Sheeple, being what they are, don't want to really throw their vote away on some loser, so the undecided trend the way the polls reflect. The process is self-perpetuating and grows exponentially worse if unchecked.

When is the last time we actually had a truly meaningful discourse about the details of a political philosophy, the goals to be sought in governance, and a real explanation of the nuts and bolts of plans for accomplishing one of those goals?

We get 15 or 20 seconds about something if we pay attention to a debate. We get rare bites here and there of gross generalizations about "Change" and "Leadership" and "Experience"

And really, what we get, as a public, is a load of crap, beholden to no one, responsible for nothing, and ineffective in directing the most powerful and amazing nation in this history of the world.

I want to vote for someone who knows what he believes in without having to stick his finger in the air to see which way the wind is blowing. I want to vote for someone who is responsible enough to stand up to his political friends and his political enemies with the same vigor if they're wrong. I want someone who'll protect our national security through whatever means are required. I want a backbone in there. I want something that I'm not sure exists in our current day and time.

Ok. Enough for now. Time to go home and tend to a sick wifey.

Brendan focuses way more energy on process than on policy. He admitted as much previously. Obviously, commenting on policy takes more time and a new dad doesn't necessarily have that time. He's hardly alone on this problem. The MSM focuses on process over policy for similar reasons. Discussing substantive issues takes time. News programs probably don't think they can hold our attention that long. The only program I listen to that consistently does in depth analysis of issues is NPR. There are obviously print publications that do a better job like the Economist.

Brendan, or maybe Derek, et al.,

Does anyone know if Florida's 0.5% automatic recount provision we all came to know so well in 2000 is (1) still in effect, and (2) applies to primaries?

If that's the case, we could go into SPD Tuesday without even knowing who won Florida...

The Romney camp insists that they have had an excellent get out the vote operation in the absentee voting. HRC took NH with an all-time GOTV effort in Manchester. That effort destroyed all the assumptions by all the pollsters. If the Romney camp is correct in that their GOTV effort was great, look for more blank looks and spittle coming from the vaunted pollsters.

I am skeptical of what the Romney spinmeisters are putting out. It seems to me that the overwhelming amount of early Florida voting (prior to Michigan) would have gone to Huckabee, McCain, and Rudy. Post-Michigan, I would agree that Romney has enjoyed a bounce.

Again well & Truly said, Jay Johnson. (A big Get-well-soon to the Wifey, btw.)

"...commenting on policy takes more time and a new dad doesn't necessarily have that time. He's hardly alone on this problem. The MSM focuses on process over policy for similar reasons."

JT, the MSM is a New Dad?? I didn't know :). Congrats to Them. Who's the Mommy? :> [From what They've been Up to lately, I'd almost guess it must be Hillary ;]

...and speaking of birthings, Pregnant Chad :), that's an excellent question & a shrewdly valid speculation. / I don't know the Florida answer and, being a closet Fredhead myself, I'm too Lazy to look it up ;>.

I DO know the Connecticut answer, though ~ which is obviously of far Greater significance tonight :). In oversimplified Essence, it's this. Our recount law (also a 0.5% standard) does apply to Primaries with the exception of the Presidential Preference Primary :> ~ because, under the pertinent statutory language defining the requisitely-close margin of Victory between winner & loser, there Are no Winners & Losers in our PresPrim :). I could further Expound, but I think I'll just leave it at That, because (a) even I don't want to draw TOO much Flak here, and (b) God help me, I do Love it so ;}.

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