Good Omens Out of Pennsylvania
by Jonathan Singer, Wed Mar 12, 2008 at 09:03:56 AM EDT
The common wisdom is that the longer that the Democratic primaries drag on, the worse it is for the Democratic Party. But the increased attention and energy involved in the Democratic primaries is having some decidedly positive short-term and long-term effects. For instance, take a look at these numbers out of Pennsylvania.
Pennsylvania Democrats have added more than 65,000 voters to their rolls since last fall, a reflection of the high level of interest in the contested race for the party's presidential nomination and the state's April 22 primary.
The number of Democrats increased 1.7 percent -- from 3,883,378 in November to 3,948,775 as of March 4.
GOP enrollment grew by 0.1 percent, from 3,245,271 to 3,248,583, during the period.
This is really important stuff. In 2000, Al Gore carried Pennsylvania by 200,000 votes. In 2004, John Kerry's margin of victory in the state was fewer than 145,000 votes. So adding a new 60,000-plus new voters (65,000 new Democratic voters minus 3,300 new Republican voters) could clearly make a huge difference in the state. Naturally, registering voters is not everything. Turning out these voters is also key come November 2008.
Traditionally, picking up swing voters in swing regions of swing states is no doubt important. In the case of Pennsylvania, this amounts to focusing on the Philadelphia suburbs. However, if a party can change the traditional rule by registering tens of thousands more new voters than the other party -- and turning those new voters out -- it is in a much better position to win, with or without those key swing voters. And when a party is tending to perform better among swing voters and is registering a whole heck of a lot more new voters than the other party, well, then things start looking really good for the election to come. This isn't to say that Pennsylvania is now in the bag for the Democrats. Nevertheless, hope should not be lost at this juncture, either.