Update: Early voting ended yesterday and the trends in the 1st District have held - 46.4% of ballots cast by Republicans, 42.9% by Democrats, 10.7% by Others. These numbers must be very encouraging to Harris, and probably explain why the Democratic Party is now spending money on behalf of the Libertarian candidate in the 1st District - hardly a sign of confidence.
Original Post: Maryland's 1st Congressional district is the quintessential swing district. It is 41.6% Democrat, 41.7% Republican, and 16.7% Other (mostly unaffiliated). In 2008, Democrat Frank Kratovil won against Republican Andy Harris by 2,000 votes. Kratovil is facing Harris in a rematch. Recent polls have been inconsistent with the race either tied or with Harris ahead by 4 or 11 points.
According to early voting data in Maryland, turnout has been highest in the 1st Congressional district and the numbers thus far should encourage Harris supporters. Statewide, Democratic turnout has been stronger than Republican turnout, but not in the 1st District. Republican turnout is higher and as of 10/26 Republicans have cast 46.6% of the votes, Democrats 43.4%, and Other 10%. These numbers take on added significance given that a poll released last week by Monmouth University caused quite a stir as it showed Harris opening an 11 point lead in the race. The partisan breakdown in that poll was 46% Republican, 45% Democrat, and 9% I - so far, Republican turnout is better and Democratic turnout worse than the Monmouth sample.
In the Monmouth poll, Harris and Kratovil did equally well among their respective party's, but Harris enjoyed a 24 point lead among Independents. If I take the Monmouth poll's level of support by party ID and apply it to the early voting numbers then Harris is leading 52.4% to 47.6% - a 5 point margin. But that may understate Harris' margin. Monmouth reported both actual respondent registration as well as self-reported registration. Actual registration was the 46% R, 45% D, and 9% I - but self reported ID was 39% R, 33%D and 28% I - meaning far more Democrats are rejecting the party label than are Republicans, and, according to Monmouth, supporting Harris.
As an aside, the Baltimore Sun released a poll this week showing this race to be tied, that same poll showed that Democratic Governor Martin O'Malley had opened a 14 point lead over former Governor Bob Ehrlich. Early voting data suggests that the Harris/Kratovil race is anything but tied - one must wonder if the O'Malley/Ehrlich numbers in the Sun poll are off as well. According to the Ehrlich campaign, a poll conducted for them by Public Opinion Strategies finds the race statistically tied at 47% O'Malley to 44% Ehrlich among likely voters.