Earlier today, I noted the surprisingly strong GOP performance in Colorado early voting, but that’s not their only success story. They have also turned around the early GOTV performance in Florida, Marc Caputo reports, with a five-point lead in combined absentee ballots and early-vote ballots cast. What that means, though, is murkier than in Colorado, thanks to the nature of the gubernatorial contest in the Sunshine State:

Almost 2.8 million Floridians have cast early and absentee ballots so far, and Republican returns are still ahead of Democrats, who have been in slow-motion catchup.

GOP lead over Democrats: 133,521, or 4.8 percentage points as of this morning. Yesterday’s lead: 134,910 or 5.3 percent.

While Democrats can rightly boast their closing the gap, the question lingers: Is it enough? Probably note. Republicans’ lead could be cut to less than 4 percentage points by Election Day, according to an extrapolation of the past five days’ voting rates. That could be a vote margin of more than 128,000 in Republican’s favor. Again this is an extrapolation based on current rates. it is conservative both in its mathematical assumptions and, incidentally, in its political outcome because it shows Republicans doing rather well.

But:

One factor in Democrat Charlie Crist’s favor, most polls show him winning independents. And no-party-affiliation and third-party voters could make up as much as 18 percent of the pre-Election Day voters.

The split by percentage at the moment — with just a couple of days left — is a D/R/I of 38.8/43.6/17.5, and a total of 2,760,355 ballots already received. Compare that to the overall vote in the 2010 gubernatorial race that put Rick Scott ahead of Alex Sink in a similar Republican wave election, and blew Charlie Crist out of the Senate race at the same time. The D/R/I in that race was 36/36/29, with some slight rounding issues.

The final number of ballots cast in that election was 5,346,228, which means that Florida has already received slightly more than half of the overall vote from 2010 in early voting, and nearly half of that from Republicans outperforming their 2010 percentage thus far by more than seven points. Democrats are also outperforming their overall 2010 pace, but only by less than three points. Independents are lagging far behind in early polling, but that’s to be expected, since the parties have GOTV efforts to amplify that process.

However, Republicans had an early edge in Florida early voting in 2010, too, although on a much smaller scale. They had a larger lead earlier this month too, only to have Democrats close the gap a little in the last couple of weeks. The big question will still be the independents, who will certainly increase their participation on Election Day at the expense of both parties, and what that might mean for the calculus in the race.

The RCP average has Crist up 1.2 points, but with both candidates below 44%, and with four of the last six polls showing a flat-out tie. The Survey USA poll that gave Crist his biggest lead (+4, 45/41) assumed a turnout model of 38/38/23, and only a one-point edge among independents (39/38). The other from Quinnipiac (Crist +3, 43/40), assumed a slightly more Republican turnout model of 31/33/27, but had Crist up by 18 points among independents, 47/29. The final YouGov poll showed a tie at 41-all, but they have not yet posted the data on their website. The previous week had Scott up 1 at 46/45 in a weighted turnout model of 35/33/30, with Scott up eight points with indies.

The Miami Herald came out with its final look at the race yesterday, and the news seems a bit better for Scott, with a 47/44 lead. Scott has a favorability advantage, Caputo reports, and Crist’s previous lead among indies in this series has evaporated:

Scott’s job approval is at 52-44 percent. The poll shows that 50 percent have a favorable impression of him compared to 46 percent who have an unfavorable impression. In comparison, Crist’s fav-unfav: 44-53 percent. President Obama’s: 48-51 percent.

The poll of likely Florida voters screened from a voter list has more Republican respondents than Democrats, 43-41 percent. No-party-affiliation and third-party voters are 16 percent of the poll. …

Once change in this final pool compared to the prior two waves: Crist’s lead among independents has almost evaporated. It’s now just 1 percentage point (39-38 percent) over Scott.

Still, it’s difficult to get a grip on this race from the polling, which is all over the map. This race is a real, honest-to-goodness tossup. If Republicans expect to hold this gubernatorial seat, they will need to extend their turnout lead through Election Day to have a good chance of keeping Crist from returning to his old job.