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Stunning early-voting numbers ahead of Election Day

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By Allan Smith

More than 35 million early votes have been counted nationwide as of Monday — well more than the total cast in the 2014 midterm elections.

That year, just more than 21 million early votes were tabulated.

The NBC News Data Analytics Lab, using voter file data from TargetSmart, found that 35,526,881 early votes were counted nationwide as of Monday. In states that have early voting, 42 percent of voters are Republican, 41 percent are Democrats, and 17 percent have either independent or have another party affiliation.

Republican-affiliated voters have outpaced Democratic-affiliated voters in Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Montana, Tennessee and Texas. In Nevada, Democratic-affiliated voters have outpaced their Republican counterparts.

The total early vote as of Election Day in 2016, a presidential election year when turnout is much higher, was 46,314,207.

Georgia

Georgia Republican gubernatorial candidate Brian Kemp — who also oversees his state’s elections as secretary of state — told reporters on Monday he is “not worried about how it looks” to launch an investigation into his opponents just two days before Election Day.

“I’m doing my job,” Kemp said. “This is how we would handle any investigation when something like this comes up. Because I can assure you if I hadn’t done anything and the story came out that something was going on, you’d be going, ‘Why didn’t you act?'”

On Sunday, Kemp announced he was investigating Georgia’s Democratic Party for an attempted hack of the voter registration system. Kemp, who is locked in a neck-and-neck race with Democrat Stacey Abrams, did not provide evidence to back up the allegation.

Democrats blasted Kemp on Sunday, charging him with launching a shameless “political stunt” two days before Election Day.

Kemp’s office told NBC News on Sunday that the secretary of state would release additional information “as soon as we can.” That afternoon, Kemp’s office said he opened the investigation “after receiving information from our legal team about failed efforts to breach the online voter registration system and My Voter Page.”

In an interview with CNN, Abrams called the investigation “a witch hunt” created “by someone who is abusing his power.”

Virginia

Former President Barack Obama continued his campaign-trail blitz on Monday, rallying for Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine and Democratic House candidate Jennifer Wexton in Fairfax.

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Obama told supporters that he is seeing a “great awakening” across the country from “people I think who had taken for granted that we had made certain strides, we had made certain progress.”

He added, “Suddenly people woke and said: ‘Oh, I guess we can’t take this for granted. We’ve got to fight for this.’ … And in that great awakening, I feel hopeful. You guys make me feel hopeful.”

Texas

Democratic Rep. Beto O’Rourke, who’s locked in one of the nation’s most-watched Senate battles with Republican Sen. Ted Cruz, told NBC News on Monday that he will not seek the White House in two years.

“I will not be a candidate for president in 2020,” O’Rourke said.

O’Rourke, who is running in a close race with Cruz in the traditionally conservative state, has emerged as a Democratic star and is viewed by some as a viable presidential candidate — particularly if he can pull off an upset and defeat Cruz. But he has repeatedly denied that he will make a bid for the Oval Office in the next presidential election.

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Florida

Republican Sen. Marco Rubio joined former GOP Rep. Ron DeSantis at a rally in Jacksonville on Monday.

DeSantis, who is running for governor, narrowly trails Democratic candidate Andrew Gillum in one of the nation’s most-watched races.

During the rally, Rubio explained why spilling a cup of coffee on himself Monday morning guarantees that DeSantis will win on Tuesday.

“This morning, we got on the plane early,” Rubio began. “We’re taking off. I just bought one of these little hot cup things, you know, for coffee, and as soon as that plane started taking off, that thing tipped over and spilled all over, so I did the best I could to wash it. … You know the last time that happened? The day before the election in 2016. And we won — and we won not just because of the coffee spill, but because people turned out and voted.”

Montana

Vice President Mike Pence rallied for Republican Senate candidate Matt Rosendale in Kalispell on Monday, denying that there would be any “blue wave” come Tuesday.

“I keep hearing about this blue wave that’s coming our way,” Pence said. “They’re all talking about it still, all over television. But I got to tell you, it kind of reminds me of a couple of years ago today.”

“Remember? I mean I was standing there with the man who would become president of the United States, and we were at our final rally, it was after midnight, it was in Michigan,” Pence continued. “And he walked out on that stage after I introduced him, and he leaned over to me and he looked out at the thousands and thousands of people who had come out, and he said, ‘Mike this doesn’t look like second place.'”

Wisconsin

House Speaker Paul Ryan rallied in his home Wisconsin congressional district on Monday for Bryan Steil, the Republican candidate seeking to replace him.

Ryan said Steil had the character he was hoping to see in whoever would replace him as the representative from Wisconsin’s 1st Congressional District.

“…as I move on, the thing that matters most to me is to make sure that the people who trusted me by representing them in Congress have an excellent human being — a wonderful leader — to take that mantle on and be a great representative,” Ryan said. “And Bryan Steil is going to be a great representative.”

New polls

In Florida, Quinnipiac University found Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson leads GOP Gov. Rick Scott 51 percent to 44 percent in the battle for Senate. Meanwhile, the Democratic mayor of Tallahassee, Andrew Gillum, tops former Republican Rep. Ron DeSantis, 50 percent to 43 percent. The margin of error was plus-or-minus 3.5 percentage points.

Those numbers represented two of the biggest leads Nelson and Gillum have in any Florida poll so far.

In New Jersey, Quinnipiac found that Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez was up on Republican challenger Bob Hugin 55 percent to 40 percent in its latest poll. That race had narrowed in recent weeks, but it appears that Menendez is regaining a substantial lead in the campaign’s final hours. The margin of error was plus-or-minus 4 percentage points.

Garrett Haake, Marianna Sotomayor and Shirley Zilberstein contributed.

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