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Adapted from TargetSmart. (Battleground states include Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Michigan, Minnesota, North Carolina, New Hampshire, Nevada, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia and Wisconsin.) Chart: Naema Ahmed/Axios

Democratic strategists think the early numbers show a 2020 electorate that's bigger, younger and more diverse than in 2016 — and not just shifting forward votes that would have otherwise arrived on Election Day.

The big picture: Early voting data signals strong Democratic enthusiasm in key battleground states. But strategists in both parties say Republicans could still overtake that advantage with a surge of in-person turnout on Election Day.

Details: So far, first-time and infrequent Democratic voters are outpacing registered Republicans with larger margins than in 2016, according to data from TargetSmart, a Democratic firm.

  • “In North Carolina, nearly 1 in 5 ballots cast so far come from those who didn’t vote in 2016," said Greg Speed, president of America Votes.
  • 24.9 million ballots have already been cast. In key states like Florida, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Georgia and Iowa, more than a quarter of the total number of ballots that were cast in 2016 have already been received.
  • More than six times as many Democrats have cast ballots than at the same point in 2016 — and Republican early voting has nearly quadrupled.

Pennsylvania and Florida are key to watch.

  • 59% of first-time voters who already cast ballots in Pennsylvania are registered Democrats, compared to the just 15% who are registered Republicans. Democratic first-time voters were just barely outvoting Republicans (40% to 38%) at this point in 2016.
  • In Florida, registered Democrats' lead over registered Republicans among first-time voters has grown by nearly 10 percentage points compared to 2016.

What to watch: 2020 is an election like none other, and comparisons to 2016 should be taken with a grain of salt.

  • "I can't help but look at this data with the lens of Trump telling Republicans so consistently that vote-by-mail is a scam," Josh Mendelsohn, CEO of Michael Bloomberg's data firm Hawkfish, told Axios. "That distrust — it bears out in this data."
  • "There's less of an imperative for Republicans to vote early," said Mike Meyers, a Republican and president TargetPoint Consulting.

Go deeper

Scoop: David Jolly eyes independent run for Florida governor

Jolly at a House Foreign Affairs subcommittee meeting in 2014. Photo: Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call via Getty Images

Former U.S. Rep. David Jolly is "strongly considering" a run for Florida governor in 2022 as an independent, a source close to him tells Axios.

Why it matters: Jolly, who repped Florida's 13th district as a Republican from 2014 to 2017 and publicly left the GOP in 2018, has built a brand on cable news as a critic of former President Trump and his allies in Congress.

Updated 19 mins ago - World

Pentagon: 8,500 troops on high alert for possible deployment to eastern Europe

Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has placed 8,500 U.S. troops on "heightened preparedness to deploy" to eastern Europe in case NATO activates its rapid-response force over tensions with Russia, the Pentagon announced Monday.

Why it matters: No decisions have been made to actually deploy U.S. forces, but the heightened alert level will allow the military to rapidly shore up NATO's eastern flank in the event that Russia invades Ukraine. The Pentagon warned that Russia has shown "no signs of de-escalating," and continues to amass troops on Ukraine's borders.

Updated 45 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Biden calls Fox News reporter a "stupid son of a b---h" on hot mic

President Biden blasted Fox News' Peter Doocy on Monday after the reporter asked if the nation's soaring inflation is a political liability, saying, "what a stupid son of a b----h."

The latest: The president called Doocy Monday evening, the reporter told Fox's Sean Hannity. "He cleared the air and I appreciated it. We had a nice call," Doocy said when asked whether the president apologized, adding: "I don't need anyone to apologize to me."