Is Voter ID the Republicans’ ‘Ground Game’ in Pennsylvania?
Former president Bill Clinton made a point last night to denounce Voter ID laws, like the one still on the books in Pennsylvania.
“If you want America — if you want every American to vote and you think it is wrong to change voting procedures just to reduce the turnout of younger, poorer, minority and disabled voters, you should support Barack Obama,” he said in the last minutes of the speech. (Clinton had previously compared Voter ID to Jim Crow-era laws.)
Meanwhile, perhaps seeing the writing on the wall, several Republican groups and Mitt Romney have been moving their cash out of Pennsylvania. Super-PACs are essentially off the air throughout the state. U.S. Senate candidate Tom Smith is reportedly funding 85 percent of his own campaign.
That’s leading some observers to note the Romney, and greater Republican, ground game is done in the Keystone State—at least money-wise. Lucky for them, they may have something better.
“Voter ID is the Republican ground game,” notes Jon Geeting today at Keystone Politics. “Rather than spending money turning out Republican voters, who turn out pretty consistently anyway, they can spend no money and block a bunch of Democrats from voting. The work is done.”
The numbers show he may be right, still. And if not, Voter ID allows Republicans to focus their resources elsewhere unless Pennsylvania becomes a must-win state as we get closer to the election.
According to the most recent voter registration statistics, Democrats hold a 1.1 million voter registration lead over Republicans in the state and the president has held a significant lead over Romney in polls since the beginning. Despite this huge gap, Democrats lost the governorship, state Legislature, U.S. Senate race and their statewide majority of U.S. Congresspeople just two years ago. So, while an overwhelming majority of voters have that little “D” next to their name, their reputation to swing holds true.
And still, as we wrote during the 2010 election season, that advantage may also be artificial—Pennsylvania was a crucial state during the 2008 Democratic nomination process. Many Republicans and independents switched their registration to Democrat during the more-than-month-long period between Pennsylvania’s primary and, previously, Mississippi’s, to vote in that historic Democratic primary. So it may be possible that some Republicans and conservative independents still hold that Democratic title.
It also helps to realize that President Obama won the commonwealth by the largest majority of any presidential candidate since 1972—a margin of nearly 10 points, which represented about 605,800 voters.
Now, with Voter ID a likely part of the 2012 election, 605 thousand voters might not even be enough for the Democrats to win—but it’s hard to tell due to the sheer amount of numbers thrown in our faces during this election/Voter ID controversy season. In July, the Inquirer found that 758,000 registered voters in Pennsylvania didn’t have state ID cards from PennDOT—and 186,000 of them were from Philadelphia. During the Voter ID trial, which ended earlier this month, it was claimed more than 1 million people would not be eligible to vote in November. Other estimates, like one conducted by the AFL-CIO, found the number to be closer to 1.5 million people.
Judge Robert Simpson of the Commonwealth Court noted in his decision to not strike down the law that he didn’t estimate the number of voters being suppressed by the law is, or is near, 1 percent. (This number was previously noted by the Corbett Administration.) So, it’s still highly possible for Obama to win the state—polls say he probably will—but if Voter ID laws have anything to do with it, the deficit is at least going to be closer to 2004 than 2008.
But if nothing else, Voter ID could provide some breathing room. As former Gov. Ed Rendell noted to the PA Democratic caucus in Charlotte, N.C. today, the Republicans have the money—and the know-how—to launch an ad blitz toward the end of the campaign if they believe they’re within striking distance. And he thinks that’s exactly what’s going on.
“They’re laying a little bit of a trap for us,” Rendell said. “They have the money to do it if they want.”
What Rendell didn’t mention is that Voter ID gave the GOP a cushion to do exactly that. Any other year, if Republicans wanted to win Pennsylvania, you’d see something — really, anything — coming from the top to turn Pennsylvania red. Mitt Romney might even pander with a “hard-working factory worker in Allentown, Pennsylvania” reference during his speeches. Has Mittens even stopped in South Philly for a cheesesteak, yet?
Many are now beginning to notice the laws backfiring on Republicans (if you’re to believe suppression is the point of the GOP bill), as officials begin to notice their constituents becoming, as Sen. Vincent Hughest told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, “very angry” over the law.
That anger has been festering. Poll workers noted to PW during the 2012 primary that several voters initially made a point to not show ID because of their opposition to the law.
Republicans have the identification/suppression advantage until a new ground game of ads and volunteers is needed. Pennsylvania’s importance is noteworthy. But to the point that it’s deciding elections? Probably not. After all, George Bush won in 2000 and 2004 after losing the state both times. And until then, they can focus their efforts on Florida, Ohio, Wisconsin, Michigan, Virginia, and other swing states Obama won in 2008.