Twenty-five days out from Election Day in 2008, the number of votes cast by Iowa Democrats was about 54,500. This year, about 115,000 had been cast.
(...) Here are the differences in their approaches:
In April, Obama campaign aides began their big push for Democratic voters to fill out paperwork to request an absentee ballot, then cast it by mail or in person. In contrast, the Republicans say their plan was to target efforts to Sept. 27, the first day absentee ballots could be turned in.
As of now, Democrats are ahead — in both ballots requested (68,000 more than Republicans) and ballots cast (53,000 more), Iowa secretary of state records show.
That doesn’t faze Romney backers.
Here’s why: GOP voters in Iowa are more inclined to vote on Election Day than by absentee ballot.
Four years ago, Republican John McCain won among Iowa votes cast exclusively on Election Day — 16,804 more Republicans than Democrats turned out. That was a 2.5 percentage-point edge for the GOP, even though McCain lost by nearly 10 points. Absentee ballots the Obama campaign had whipped up from voters in the preceding weeks made the difference.
(...) In Iowa, momentum on ballots requested began to turn Sept. 29, according to the state’s tally. The trajectory has favored Republicans for 10 reports in a row since then. On vote-by-mail and in-person ballots, during the period since ballots became available, the GOP picked up about 99,000 returned ballots, while the Democrats picked up about 75,000, state records show.
Neither side thinks Republicans will entirely surpass Democrats in absentee ballot participation in the next three weeks — the Obama campaign is promoting it more, and history suggests the Democrats will maintain the edge.
The Republicans’ mission is to keep narrowing the gap over the next 21 days, Kochel said. Romney backers believe they will easily surpass McCain’s previous 2.5 percentage-point edge in Election Day turnout and come closer then ever to matching the Democrats’ absentee ballots this year. If they’re right, Romney would be within striking distance.
Iowa Democrats led in absentee ballots in 2010, but lost heavily in the general election. Currently, among active voters in Iowa, the GOP has a registration advantage of 11,000.