The votes themselves won't be counted until the polls close on May 6th, but we can get a sense of who is ahead based on the race and gender of those who have already voted. As has often been noted during this campaign, race and gender tend to be highly correlated with vote choice. African-Americans have voted for Obama at rates upward of 85-90%. On the other hand, about 65-70% of white women have supported Clinton. White men have been a little less predictable. Obama won 58% of the white male vote in Virginia, 43% in Pennsylvania, and just 38% in Ohio.
So far, the early voters in North Carolina break down as follows:
|% of Early Voters|
|Other ||6% |
Let's assume that Obama is winning 85% of the African-American vote, just 30% of white women and 40% of white men. We'll split the remaining 6% of the early voters (those in the "other" category) evenly between Obama and Clinton. Under these assumptions, Obama is currently leading Clinton among early voters by a margin of 55-45%. In terms of raw numbers, that would give Obama a lead of somewhere between 27,000 and 28,000 votes. And this estimate is probably slightly on the conservative side since Obama could very well win 90% or more of the black vote and could potentially do a bit better among white men and women.
So, Obama is almost certainly ahead by a significant amount at this point. The question is whether the composition of the electorate voting on the day of the primary will look like early voters. If it does, then Obama should have a very good day. But if African American turnout on the day of the primary doesn't match that among early voters, then this race could end up being much closer.