Facing a massive early voting deficit less than two weeks out from election day, the Romney campaign is projecting a mixed message as the candidate works to keep alive his claim to momentum.Iowa Republicans have stepped up their efforts somewhat this cycle. But they're still suffering from the lost decade of the 2000s, when they abandoned their successful vote by mail efforts of the 1990s, implied that early voting was "fraud," and focused their energy on last minute "72 hour programs" to get voters to the election day polls instead.
At issue is the question of whether Republicans are losing the early voting battle on purpose, as they say, or whether simply can't get their base to break their habit of voting on election day.
In memos and press gaggles, Republicans insist they're so far behind by strategic choice — focusing their efforts on helping unlikely voters get to the polls now, and leaving their enthusiastic base to fend for themselves on November 6.
But as Mitt Romney and Senator Rob Portman zig-zagged across Ohio Thursday, they repeatedly made a point of pleading for early votes from the cheering partisans who gathered at their rallies — the very group the campaign says they're not trying to get to the polls.
Democrats, in contrast, have made a greater effort than even their record-setting 2008 early voting drives. It's so important that they decided to forego the traditional election day shot of the president casting his ballot, as yesterday Barack Obama became the first-ever sitting president to vote early. (By happy coincidence, I voted yesterday as well.) And Monday the first lady is hosting an Iowa City event designed in part to direct people to an early voting site at the public library.
It's easier now than it will be soon. Tomorrow is what we used to call the voter registration deadline in Iowa, but now call the "pre-registration" deadline. Through 5 p.m. Saturday, all you need to do is fill out your form, include a driver's license or Social Security number that gets verified, and you can either vote right then or wait till later.
After Saturday, in order to register under Iowa's relatively new election day registration law, you need to show ID and proof of address, AND you can only register if you are voting right then. (You can still change address, within a county, without ID.)
Tomorrow is also one of our great Johnson County traditions, Hy-Vee Saturday, with voting at all four of the chain's local stores. It's a great community service by Hy-Vee; other stores including Fareway and Wal-Mart have said no to early voting sites. And it's a tradition that should continue under new management.
I've worked at a lot of sites over the years, and I hear about fifty "this is wonderful" to each one "this shouldn't be allowed." It's a philosophical difference, really, seen more in the photo ID wars but centered around the same underlying issue: Should voting be easy?