Republicans are making things slightly closer in both counties with the help of absentee mail ballots. While the GOP is performing significantly better than it did in 2008, Ralston writes: "If the Republicans don't turn this pattern around in the second week, where traditionally voting is higher and closer between the parties, the Dem[o]crats likley [sic] won't get to 2008 levels but may get to 65,000 or so. Unless there is significant partisan hemorraghing [sic] by Obama and unless he is getting killed by indies (no sign of that in any polling), this firewall will be tough for the GOP to pierce."
Again, early voting could make or break the state for either candidate here, since almost 60 percent of Nevada voters cast their ballot early in 2008 when Obama won. And for now, things are again looking up for the Democrats.
Voters do not register by party in Ohio, so it's not as clear cut which party has the edge. That means that Republicans and Democrats have tried to spin the Ohio early vote to their advantage.
The Obama campaign released a memo Thursday saying that early voting is up from 2008 in counties that Obama won in 2008 compared to counties that McCain won. The Obama campaign pointed to a Time magazine pollthat showed Obama winning early voters over Romney 60-30 percent and argued it could help them boost turnout.
To use a real-time example, in Democrat-leaning Franklin County (which includes Columbus), 125,000 people have voted early, which makes up more than 22 percent of total turnout in 2008.
But Republicans put out their own memo arguing that most voters the Democrats are getting to vote early were already inclined to vote Democrat on November 6. That phenomenon is "cannibalizing" their Election Day support, the memo says, claiming that's hurting Democrats in other states where they have a lead like Nevada and Iowa.
Meanwhile, Republicans claim they are targeting so-called "low-propensity" voters who would help them pad turnout by voting early.
In reality, it's impossible to tell whether early voting is reducing or increasing turnout until after Election Day, McDonald says. The polls show Obama with an extremely narrow lead over Romney there. And many more early votes could be on the way. Over 812,000 total have voted early there so far, while 1.5 million voted early there four years ago.
A few words of warning when judging the early vote: these numbers are a snapshot in time. They change literally every single day. And just because Republicans and Democrats have requested ballots and voted doesn't mean they are necessarily supporting their party's guy at the top of the ticket.
Still, early voting numbers give us the earliest glimpse into who is winning and losing in these crucial battlegrounds.
We will do our best to keep you periodically updated and if you're really a numbers junkie, check out McDonald's United States Elections Project.