Oh noes! Percentages are down compared to 2008, when the McCain campaign had no ground operation of any consequence in Virginia! But, what does that mean in actual ballots cast?
Got that? It's not that the Democratic vote, in raw numbers, is down from 2008. It's just down as a percent of the total number of votes cast statewide. In reality, the number of ballots from Democratic areas are actually up from 2008, from 145,673 to 152,084. Does that sound like a drop in Democratic intensity?
At the same time, Republicans areas are up from 80,881 to 95,744. That's a bigger increase, percentage-wise (hence Wasserman's constant refrains about Democrats being "down", when they're actually not), but the difference, in raw votes, is just 8,000 votes or so. Given that Obama won the state in 2008 by about 230,000 votes, Republicans are going to have to do much better than that.
And it should be obvious that 152,084 is quite a bit more than 95,744. There's one side winning, and it isn't the one lagging by 57,000 votes.
But here's the other part of that equation—Republican voters are some of the most reliable: wealthier, older and white. They will generally turn out come hell or high water. So it doesn't matter whether they turn out early or late. They're not adding to the GOP's vote pile.
Democratic base groups, on the other hand, are some of the least reliable voters—poor, brown and/or young. By banking early votes, Democrats can be assured that they're actually getting their unreliable voters to the polls, thus allowing them to focus GOTV efforts on those who still haven't voted.
We're seeing this in North Carolina, where early voting among African Americans and 18-29 year-olds is significantly higher than in 2008.
So the fact that Republican early turnout is up in Virginia isn't cause for Democratic concern. Republicans finally have a ground game in the state, and whether they get their very reliable votes to the polls early or late, it all adds up to the same in the end. For their part, Democrats might have reason to panic if the number of votes from their strongholds was down. But the opposite is happening—proving that even in this non-wave year, the Obama machine is getting out the (unreliable) Democratic vote in even larger numbers than was the case in 2008.
That bodes increasingly well for our chances in these tightest battlegrounds.