I’ve never been a fan of early voting. Those who vote early do not have the opportunity to include in their deliberations late breaking events or campaign developments that might cause them to re-examine their decision.
I’ve always believed we’re better off having everybody vote on the same day. That way everybody has access to the same information before they pull the lever. (Absentee ballots, of course, should be made available to those who cannot show up on Election Day due to travel or other unavoidable complications.)
An illustration of this comes from the Louisiana primary on Saturday. Donald Trump barely defeated Ted Cruz in the Bayou State 41%-38%. But it turns out Trump may owe his margin of victory to early voters.
This is because Cruz stormed back on election day, as the Washington Post points out in a piece by Philip Bump entitled Ted Cruz’s huge surge in Election Day voting in Louisiana.
Bump compares voting data from early voters with data from day-of voters, and concludes “[T]his looks like the state of Louisiana bailed on Marco Rubio in favor of Ted Cruz.”
Nate Silver has additional details. Here were Louisiana's Election Day vote totals:
But here were the early vote totals:
In other words, Cruz closed a 20 point gap in a matter of days, and actually won the vote on Election Day. Wrote The Hayride, “Ted Cruz erased a 20-point gap in Louisiana in less than a week and actually won the Election Day vote. That’s absolutely incredible.”
And Cruz picked up a large amount of his support from Marco Rubio, who tanked on Saturday, and produced a vote total less than half his absentee totals.
What happened? The most plausible explanation is that the debate happened. The last debate happened on the Thursday night before the Saturday election, and by most accounts both Trump and Rubio had bad nights. Trump was defensive all night long, changed his mind on immigration in the middle of the debate, and doubled down on ordering war crimes (only to reverse field the next day).
Rubio likewise had a substandard outing while Cruz refused to mud wrestle with either Trump or Rubio and kept the focus on substantive policy differences between him and his opponents.
Rubio had a perfectly terrible day on Saturday. He could not get out of the teens anywhere, and didn’t even crack the 10% threshold in Maine to qualify for even a single delegate.
Cruz won stunning and decisive victories in Kansas (48-23) and Maine (46-33) and lost narrowly in Louisiana and Kentucky (36-32). According to NBC, he has closed the delegate gap with Trump to well under a hundred (392-305).
Bottom line: the bottom seems to have fallen out of the Rubio campaign, Trump’s sheen is starting to tarnish, and Cruz seems to be peaking at just the right time. This campaign is far from over.