It’s been a bright few months for the Democratic Party.
As a result, you might’ve expected those trends to show up in the voter registration totals both in Pennsylvania and nationwide. That has not been the case.
It appears the pandemic is deflating Democratic efforts to register new voters while the GOP makes up some ground.
Two months ago, the Democratic margin throughout the commonwealth was 803,427. Now it stands at 783,116. All told, that’s 4,101,080 Democrats, 3,317,964 Republicans and 1,223,971 others for a grand total of 8,643,015 registered voters.
Now let’s dive in.
A quick note: I explore our changing voter trends by tracking the gains one party accumulated in registrations over the other party. For example, R+500 means that the Republican Party gained a net 500 more registered voters in that county than the Democratic Party did over this time period while D+500 indicates the opposite.
Centre County is the surprise here, the home to Penn State University, is usually the sole blue region in the geographic center of the state. If colleges can’t host students this fall then that county suddenly becomes competitive.
Definitely the reddest region of the state. Lycoming County is a prime example of how Republicans are running up the margins in the counties that tend to get overlooked.
Those numbers in Lackawanna and Luzerne counties are particularly troublesome for Dems. Scranton Joe needs to solidly win the former, and at least perform decently in the latter, in order to win PA’s 20 electoral votes. Yet the party continues to lose ground in both counties. Monroe’s tiny margin is a bit of a silver lining.
Erie continues to swing back and forth. Third Way recently described it as the bellwether of the state and it’s not a bad choice. Democrats have quietly lost a ton of ground in Crawford, Jefferson and Mercer counties.
It’s notable that Dauphin County bucked the trend and continued to deliver steady Democratic gains. The party’s long-term hopes in places like Cumberland and Lancaster counties, however, took a step back.
Despite the general red tide, Dems maintain their stellar pace in Philly and three of its collar counties: Chester, Delaware and Montgomery counties. Biden is set to post mammoth margins here that Trump will have difficulty making up elsewhere.
The results in Bucks, Lehigh and Northampton counties are likely the most distressing of all presented here for the Biden campaign. They not only need to win there but by strong margins in order to carry the state. The trends there had been favorable until the last few weeks and I’ll be watching them closely to see if they revert back. Berks, on the other hand, now seems to be on a long-term journey towards becoming a GOP county.
Another impressive showing in the Southwest for Pennsylvania Republicans. The GOP continues to feast on the last ancestral Appalachian Democrats in places like Westmoreland, Washington and Fayette counties. To that point Cambria County, home to Johnstown, had a Democratic margin of 20,000 five years ago. I expect it to flip red before November.
The Allegheny County number is disappointing for the Biden team as they’re relying on a big boost from Pittsburgh. They’re looking to perform better than Clinton out in this region, but the ceiling for them is only so high.
So were these last two months a post-primary dead cat bounce or the first sign of a comeback for the PA GOP? The unsatisfying answer is that we have to wait and see.
What I can tell you is what to watch for:
- Do Republicans continue to pick up ground in critical blue-leaning counties like Bucks, Lehigh and Northampton?
- Can the GOP stop bleeding support in places, like Cumberland and Lancaster, where Democrats are poised to make long-term gains?
- What do the next few months look like in Dauphin, Erie and Lackawanna? Who is winning the battle for the suburbs of Harrisburg, Erie and Scranton?
The answers to these questions will give us as much insight as possible into the commonwealth ahead of the Nov. 3 general election.
Correspondent Nick Field covers Philadelphia and southeastern Pennsylvania for the Capital-Star. Follow him on Twitter @Nick_Field90.