In Iowa Democrats held a 17-percentage-point lead in the early vote heading into Election Day in 2008. According to the GOP memo, "That lead has been cut to 7.04 percent so far this year (45.20 to 38.16 percent). As a percentage of total votes cast, Republicans have increased by 9 percent while Democrats have shrunk."
But Democratic Party officials tend to reject outright comparisons to 2008. Instead, they contend that a more accurate way to measure how each party will fare is to look at those who have voted in previous midterm elections, in presidential-year elections only and first time voters in 2008. In Iowa and several other states, Democratic early voters in these three groups are largely holding their own, and in some cases, exceeding Republicans.
Although McDonald agreed that there are positive signs for Democrats in the early voting numbers, he said that accurate comparisons to previous years were difficult to make. His prediction: the fair comparison this year is somewhere in between 2008 and 2006.
"We are in uncharted waters when it comes to early voters," McDonald said. "We really don't know where we're going to end up."