by Marc Kovac | Capital Bureau Chief
Columbus -- More than 1.4 million Ohioans have requested absentee ballots by mail since the state's early voting period started a few weeks back.
More than 618,000 of those ballots have been sent back to county election boards, and about 190,000 others have been cast by people in person.
With a week or so before Election Day, Republicans and Democrats are busy trying to explain why those stats add up to a victory for Mitt Romney or Barack Obama, respectively.
Here are their takes on what the early turnout statistics mean:
The "unprecedented GOP ground game is producing dramatic results in absentee balloting and early voting," Republican National Committee Director Rick Wiley wrote in a memo to interested parties.
He noted that Republicans are outperforming Democrats on absentee requests and early voting.
Specifically, "Democrats are underperforming their share of 2008 AB/EV votes cast by 7.6 percentage points, while the GOP is over-performing their share by 5.94 points. The result is a net swing of plus-13.54 percentage points for Republicans."
He also noted that Republicans have "closed the gap on Democrats' historic absentee and early vote advantage for 15 of the past 16 days" and the GOP has "made almost 3.7 million volunteer voter contacts in Ohio...."
A separate GOP email contends that Democrats "are cannibalizing their high-propensity voters in absentee and early voting."
Or, more simply put, there are still a bunch of regular Republican voters who will likely cast ballots on Election Day, while regular Democratic voters are hitting the polls earlier.
Democrats, meanwhile, say early voting is giving them the advantage.
"Looking at the numbers," wrote National Field Director Jeremy Bird, "we're already ahead of ... where we were in 2008 and, most importantly, we're ahead of Mitt Romney."
He offered the following as evidence:
* "Counties and precincts that Obama won in 2008 are voting early at a higher rate than counties that voted Republican four years ago."
* "In counties that Obama won in 2008, 10 percent of registered voters have already cast their ballots, versus only 7 percent in Republican counties."
* "Voters in precincts that voted for Obama in 2008 have cast more than half (54 percent) of the 2012 ballots."
* "Voters in precincts that voted for Obama in 2008 have cast 53,000 more ballots this year than those in precincts that voted Republican in 2008. At this point four years ago, our lead in these same GOP precincts was just 30,000 ballots."
There are a few firm conclusions to draw from such statistics.
Both campaigns have some really creative spin masters who are doing their best to electrify their masses and ensure their party faithful and not-so-faithful get to the polls sometime between now and the evening of Nov. 6.
We can expect to see a lot more of Obama and Romney and their surrogates between now and Election Day.
And they likely need Ohio to win -- but you already knew that, given the number of ads and robo-calls and canvassers knocking on your doors.
Marc Kovac is the Dix Capital Bureau Chief. E-mail him at email@example.com or on Twitter at OhioCapitalBlog.