Politics

‘I Want To Be In The Trump Party’: GOP Rides Voter Registration Surge In Key State

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President Donald Trump has trailed Joe Biden in virtually every poll in Pennsylvania this year.

But there’s a more tangible piece of data in the state that tells a different story: Since 2016, Republicans have netted nearly seven times as many registered voters here than Democrats.

The GOP has added almost 198,000 registered voters to the books compared to this time four years ago, whereas Democrats have gained an extra 29,000. Though Democrats still outnumber Republicans by about 750,000 voters in the state, the GOP has seized on their uptick in party members as a sign that Trump is on track to win this critical Rust Belt swing state a second time.

“It’s one of the reasons why I am very bullish on Donald Trump’s prospects in Pennsylvania. I think he will win again, and I think he will win by more votes than he did in 2016,” said Charlie Gerow, a Harrisburg-based Republican strategist who has worked on presidential campaigns in the state. “Trump is doing what Ronald Reagan did 40 years ago, which is moving a lot of traditional Democrats into the Republican column.”

The GOP has also seen a larger boost in registrations than Democrats in three critical areas across Pennsylvania: Erie, Luzerne and Northampton counties, all of which helped Trump flip the state by backing him after supporting former President Barack Obama in 2012.

Overall, registered Democrats now make up 47 percent of the state’s electorate, down from 49 percent in September 2016. Republicans comprise 39 percent, up from 38 percent four years ago. Many party officials credit Trump himself for narrowing the gap.

“It’s Trump, Trump, Trump,” said Gloria Lee Snover, chair of the Northampton County Republican Party. When she has signed up voters, she added, “They’re like, ‘Oh, I want to be in the Trump party.’ It’s kind of funny. … I’m like, ‘You mean the Republican Party?’ They’re like, ‘Oh, yeah.’”

In the lead-up to the 2016 election — where Hillary Clinton lost the state by less than one percentage point — Republicans likewise registered more net voters in key areas such as parts of northeastern Pennsylvania. But rather than feeling a sense of déjà vu, many Democrats said they are not concerned about the trend affecting the presidential results.

They view the numbers as a lagging indicator that distracts from other strengths the party has with new voters and independents in the state. The biggest shift in Pennsylvania in recent years, they said, has been Democrats making electoral gains since 2016, particularly in the suburbs.

“It probably means less than meets the eye,” said J. J. Balaban, a Democratic consultant in Pennsylvania. “There’s reason to believe the shift is mostly ‘Democrats’ who haven’t been voting for Democrats for a long time, choosing to re-register as Republican.”

Republicans around the state said that they have benefited in recent months from the fact that the Trump campaign, which has sought to downplay the Covid-19 pandemic, has been knocking on doors and registering voters in person.

Joe Biden’s team has so far refrained from door-knocking in an effort to protect staffers and voters from the virus, though local Democratic groups in the state have held some socially-distanced in-person events to sign up voter… (Read more)