Friday, November 07, 2008

Advantage: Kratovil

In a sharp break with past experience, the Democrats have equaled Republican performance in turning out absentee voters in Congress District 1. Frank Kratovil now has a lead that will be very difficult for Andy Harris to overcome.

Yesterday, we discussed how Republicans dominated absentee ballots in District 1 back in 2006. In the nine Eastern Shore counties, Republicans cast 51.1% of absentee ballots and Democrats cast 40.2%, a 10.9 point lead for the GOP. In the twelve counties that have at least part of their territory in District 1, Republicans cast 50.4% of absentee ballots and Democrats cast 41.4%, a 9 point GOP lead.

But that is not the case in 2008. Throughout District 1, Democrats applied for 43.5% of absentee ballots against 42.8% for Republicans – a 0.7 point advantage for the Democrats. In terms of absentee ballots actually received by this morning, 43.8% came from Democrats and 43.0% came from Republicans – a 0.8 point advantage for the Democrats.

The Baltimore Sun reports that absentee counts have begun in all but four counties – Harford, Cecil, Talbot and Worcester. So far, Kratovil’s 915-vote lead on election day has grown to 1,871 – a pickup of 956. In the eight counties in which counting has begun, Kratovil outpolled Harris by 96,227-90,222 – a 6,005 vote or 3.2 point margin. This makes Kratovil’s additional pickup among absentee ballots a little less surprising.

So what of the four counties that have yet to be counted? On election day, they voted for Harris by a 69,778-64,688 vote or 3.8 point margin. In terms of absentee applications, 6,213 came from Republicans, 5,998 came from Democrats and 1,966 came from others. In terms of absentee ballots already returned, 5,559 came from Republicans, 5,335 came from Democrats and 1,729 came from others. That means in these four counties, 44% of the total 12,623 returned absentee ballots came from Republicans. And in order to overcome Kratovil’s lead, Harris would need to win over 57% of these ballots or benefit from an unprecedented surge of late military ballots. Both of these events are extremely unlikely. Kratovil looks like a winner.

If Kratovil holds on, it will be by far the most humiliating defeat for the Maryland GOP in the 2008 General Election. Consider the fact that District 1 was explicitly designed by Annapolis Democrats to be a Republican district. It contains the right-leaning Eastern Shore plus many of the most conservative precincts in Anne Arundel, Baltimore and Harford Counties. Also, consider the fact that the GOP historically outperforms the Democrats on absentee ballots and has a history of doing so in this Congressional District.

If Free State Republicans are defeated in their district with their tactic of choice – the absentee ballot – they are truly facing their Waterloo.

Update: The Associated Press has called the race for Kratovil.