Just got a press release with the final numbers from early voting in Orange County and there are some very positive signs for Florida Republicans.
Remember, Orange County leans Democrat (there are about 30,000 more registered Democrats than Republican). These figures follow trends I'm seeing around the country showing increased Republican enthusiasm levels:
2008 Orange County Republican early voters: 33,008
2012 Orange County Republican early voters: 34,115
Increase of 3.4%
2008 Orange County Democrat early voters: 82,829
2012 Orange County Democrat early voters: 66,539
Decrease of 19.7%
Keep in mind the Winter Park Library, the most predominantly Republican early voting location, was shut down for half of a day because of a bomb scare, and the Republicans still managed to increase their early voting turnout.
We are very excited by these numbers. Although the Democrats have complained that the new early voting hours have restricted opportunities to vote, they have notably failed to offer any explanation as to why we Republicans managed to exceed our 2008 numbers while waiting in exactly the same lines in the same polling places as Democrats. The fact is that the Democrats simply lack the same level of enthusiasm that they had in 2008...
Since Republicans usually trounce Democrats decisively at the polls on election day, these early numbers bode quite well indeed for an even larger Republican turnout advantage than the one we enjoyed in 2008.Orange County is the heart of the crucial I-4 corridor, and as I mentioned, leans Democrat, but not insurmountably so. Democrat Alex Sink won the county in the 2010 gubernatorial race, but the Orange County Mayor, Teresa Jacobs, is a Republican, as are the majority of the county's state legislators and Congressional Representatives.
Because of the population density, multiple airports, and seemingly-permanent swing voter status, Orange County gets a lot of attention, media dollars, and personal visits from the candidates and their top surrogates. Orange County voters are among the most targeted voters in the country.
Accordingly, any decrease in turnout is due to either (1) poor ground game operations by the Florida Democrats (which, honestly, is possible - they've patented the art of flailing ineptly the past few years) or (2) decreased enthusiasm on the left (or maybe both).
The Democrats will continue to scream that Florida's early voting structure was "voter suppression," but they have only themselves to blame for these figures.