WASHINGTON -- In a bit of pre-debate chest thumping, the Obama campaign put out a memo on Thursday touting a major voter-registration advantage over Republicans in several key states.
The memo is meant to inject a bit of sobriety into stories being written about the narrowing polling gap between President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney. It underscores the fact that on the key metrics of the race, the incumbent maintains tangible advantages.
According to the campaign, Democrats have registered 2.41 million more voters than Republicans this election cycle in Colorado, Florida, Iowa, North Carolina, New Hampshire, Nevada and Pennsylvania. Over the last three months, the campaign memo notes, Democrats have registered 114,540 in those states.
The inclusion of Pennsylvania is notable here, as both campaigns seem to be treating it as a solid pick-up for Obama. Taking that state's registration numbers out of the equation, the Democrats' advantage falls to 1.33 million, and the total from the past three months falls to 94,579.
The Obama campaign also uses other metrics to, more or less, announce that it's winning.
In Iowa, the memo notes, the campaign has a "lead in vote-by-mail ballots cast, in-person early voting, total voting and total ballots requested." The margin there in both ballots requested and ballots cast is larger than where the campaign stood "at this point in 2008."
In Ohio, the campaign leads in ballots requested and cast, though it declined to offer numbers in the memo. In Florida, Democrats lag behind Republicans in absentee ballots by 70,000, whereas at this point in 2008, the number was 245,000. They've made similar improvements in Nevada, where they now lead in absentee ballot requests.
"At this point in 2008, Republicans had an absentee ballot request advantage of 259,000 ballot requests in Colorado, Florida, Iowa, North Carolina and Nevada. In 2012, Democrats have cut that margin by 75 percent to just 64,000," the memo reads.
UPDATE: 2:00 p.m. -- A Republican source working on the presidential campaign sent over the following data points to counteract the Obama campaign's claim that it's winning the ground game.
In Iowa, the source notes, Republicans outnumber Democrats in terms of "active voter" registration. As of October 1, those numbers are 622,176 to 611,284. In North Carolina, Democrats have actually witnessed a net negative loss of 7,910 registered voters since Obama took office in January 2009 while Republicans have added 57,412 registered voters, according to the source. That has helped the GOP close the gap, but Obama still has a comfortable lead on this metric in the state.
On the early voter front, the Republican source argues that Obama's 2008 advantages are dwindling. In Iowa, for instance, he led by 27.13 percent four years ago. Today, Republicans trail by 11 percent. In Ohio, Republicans make up only 19.73 percent of registered voters in the state "based on primary vote history," the source said. In 2012, 29.79 percent of absentee ballot requests have come from Republicans.
The takeaway from the dueling sets of numbers seems to be that both Democrats and Republicans have made major strides in terms of grassroots operations since 2008. The problem facing Romney's campaign is that it had more distance to travel. The problem facing Obama's campaign is that there is a smaller margin of error this election than there was four years ago.