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Early voting results point to Obama lead. Does that matter? (+video)

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Some 34 million early and absentee ballots have already been cast in the 2012 presidential race – about 35 percent of expected overall turnout. In general, Democrats lead this early-vote race, but they aren’t doing as well as they did in 2008 – the party’s vote total is relatively lower, and the GOP’s is higher.

Does this matter? Is it a sign of weakness, as Republican strategists contend?

“As you go state by state and look at the specifics ... we are doing very well in these early and absentee state [votes] and feel very good about heading into the Tuesday election,” said Rich Beeson, political director of Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign, in a conference call with reporters last week.

It’s possible the early-voting shift is a sign of Election Day trends to come. The narrowing of the gap between the two parties could indicate greater enthusiasm on the part of Republican voters. It might show that the GOP has stepped up its game in get-out-the-vote efforts.

Take Nevada, a big state where early and absentee voting is popular. In 2008, such votes made up 67 percent of the total cast in the state.

Four years ago, Democrats led the GOP among early-voting Nevada residents by 12 percentage points. This year that gap has been cut to seven points, according to figures compiled by The Associated Press. (Before Tuesday, voting statistics don’t reflect presidential votes per se. Instead they indicate the party registration of those participating in the process.)

Given that Republicans often turn out on Election Day in disproportionate numbers, “we feel very good about where we stand in Nevada,” said Romney senior adviser Russ Schreifer last week.

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