Obama Takes Early Lead in Early Vote

Announcing a presidential poll that actually matters! Unlike hypothetical polling -- who might you vote for in three months? -- the launch of early voting means pollsters can survey which candidate is actually stacking up more ballots. Obama has the early lead.

Pew reports today that among people who say they already voted, Obama has a 19 point lead. That's not a small cohort, either. Fifteen percent of those surveyed say they have already voted.

Another 16 percent say they plan to vote early -- and Obama leads that group by 19 points too.

The poll also has numbers on the candidates' current, hypothetical support, with Obama building a 16-point national lead. That's far less relevant than early votes, of course, though Pew's analysis emphasizes a trend showing McCain's supporting eroding and Obama holding strong among those most likely to turn out next Tuesday:

This is the fourth consecutive survey that has found support for the Republican candidate edging down. In contrast, since early October weekly Pew surveys have shown about the same number of respondents saying they back Obama. When the sample is narrowed to those most likely to vote, Obama leads by 53% to 38%.

We often discuss (and report) the campaign as a countdown to a single day of voting, out of habit, but that's obviously inaccurate. The voting has begun, the exit polling has begun, and for the first time, Obama has a lead that actually matters.

Ari Melber writes for The Nation and blogs for The Washington Independent, where this first appeared.