Voting is no longer restricted to the Constitutionally mandated first Tuesday following a Monday in November, but instead on September 23rd the chads will have begun falling. Early voting will be kicked off in Minnesota on September 23rd, followed by Iowa on September 29th, and throughout October North Carolina, Nevada, and Florida will begin the early voting process. Historically, early voting puts the advantage in the corner of the organized and well-funded campaigns. Presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump should look to emulate Obama’s campaign strategy, which targeted get-out-the-vote (GOTV) and persuadable voters. The strong campaign allowed victories for Obama in swing States like Nevada, during both the 2008 and 2012 Presidential election. Looking forward, Clinton and Trump should focus their energy on three early vote states: Iowa, North Carolina, and Nevada. The candidate who successfully wins a majority in these three States will be one step closer to 270.
Iowa residents will begin the early voting process in late September and the race to 270 will have begun. The importance of winning Iowa is more than six electoral votes. Democrats in recent elections have dominated the early vote arena, leaving Republicans to play the difficult game of catch-up in States like Iowa. For this reason, Donald Trump should increase attention to The Hawkeye State’s early voting. Understanding a loss would allow Hillary Clinton to dominate the early vote in Iowa for a third straight year. Conversely, Clinton should see Iowa as a State to lose. This election predicts that nearly half of Democratic voters will turn out before the official election day in Iowa. A strong start by Democrats is imperative to avoid losing these early voters. Additionally, Clinton’s campaign will find it necessary to clinch persuadable voters due to the historically large Republican voter base. Determining which candidate has the advantage is difficult; past elections point to Clinton, but Iowa’s structural makeup inherently favors Trump. The advantage in Iowa will be given to the candidate who organizes the strongest campaign in the 99 Iowa counties.
Moving forward the month of October holds two early vote swing States which play roles in both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump’s campaign success. The two States which require their focus are North Carolina and Nevada; together they account for 21 electoral votes. In North Carolina early voting has become the status quo, where out of the possible voters, around half are recorded as early voters. Nevada also tops the charts as one of the easiest States to cast an early ballot, even giving voters the ability to vote via a cellphone app. Currently polling numbers show, Nevada’s six electoral votes look to be in Trumps pocket. However, Nevada’s demographic could cause Trump problems. While Republicans start with a large voter base the number of persuadable voters and Democratic GOTV voters could see a strong Democratic campaign take Nevada. The Republican path to victory in Nevada shows promise, however Trumps neglect to establish brick and mortar campaign organizations could give the Clinton campaign a chance to steal Nevada out from under him.
While Trump remains ahead in Nevada, Clinton has taken a lead in North Carolina. Clinton commands massive early vote polling numbers in North Carolina, and with a large enough turnout early voters could allow Clinton to focus her attention elsewhere. Poor early polling numbers could be detrimental to the Trump campaign and for this reason Trump must mobilize Republican GOTV voters and command the persuadable voters to remain relevant in the polls. However, Clinton should refrain from betting on North Carolina’s electorates just yet; North Carolina has both a Republican Governor and Senator who will attempt to aid the Trump campaign to victory. Nevada and North Carolina are historically swing states and winning these early swing States could boost a candidate towards a November victory.
The first to 270 relies on swing states like Iowa, Nevada and North Carolina, winning the early voting polls will forecast success, while poor early vote performance will place a candidate in a difficult catch up campaign.