The Obama campaign has invested millions of dollars in trying to register new voters, especially in battleground states.
But the Boston Globe reports that Democrats are lagging far behind the pace they set 4 years ago — partly due to the record number of new registrants then — and more ominously, far more Democrats have become “inactive” compared to Republicans.
In Florida, Iowa, North Carolina, Colorado, and Nevada — tossup states where direct election-year comparisons could be drawn — the numbers are striking. Democratic rolls increased by only 39,580, less than one-tenth the amount at the comparable point in the 2008 election.
At the same time, GOP registration has jumped by 145,085, or more than double for the same time four years ago. Independent registration has shown an even stronger surge, to 229,500, almost three times the number at this point in 2008.
The Obama campaign downplayed the Globe’s findings. “The fact is, there are currently many more Democrats registered in battleground states now than there were before the 2008 primary campaign began, which means there are fewer eligible voters left to register because of the gains we made in 2008,” campaign spokesman Adam Fetcher said in an e-mail.
Perhaps the most dramatic reversal has occurred in Iowa, a quadrennial tossup state which launched the Obama candidacy in the 2008 caucuses and which he won that November by 9 points. Republicans this year ended the Democrats’ six-year registration advantage. Since the leadoff caucuses in January, Democratic registration this year has dropped by 45,228, while GOP registration has increased by 5,671.
Some Democrats say voters who are officially categorized as inactive will, once added to active voter lists, allow Democrats to maintain a slight registration edge. Inactive voters are still eligible to vote.
Many voters were designated inactive after precincts and districts were redrawn based on the 2010 Census, and their notifications were returned as undeliverable, said Chad Olsen, spokesman for the Iowa secretary of state’s office.
But Olsen was not sure that would significantly increase Democratic totals. “I’m not sure why Democrats would be excited about the number of inactive voters they have. Most of them have moved,” he said.
Another sign of an “enthusiasm gap?” Or a statistical glitch?
Probably a little of both. Eventually, if you beat the bushes enough, you’re going to flush fewer birds. The phenomenal registration effort the Obama campaign made in 2008 resulted in 15 million first time voters — 71% being captured by the Democrat. There are likely to be far fewer first time voters in 2012, but with registrations favoring the GOP, it seems likely that Republicans will capture a majority this time.
What should really worry the Obama campaign are the number of “inactives” who have either soured on the president or have moved and are harder to reach.
And a study by the centrist Democratic group The Third Way, discovered some shocking stats on party affiliation:
The report, titled “The I’s Have it,” found that based on recent data, Democratic registration has declined by more than 800,000, or 5.2 percent; Republican enrollments were down about 80,000, or 0.7 percent; and independents were up 486,677, or 6.4 percent, in those states. It attributed some of the disparity between the parties to the Republican presidential nominating contest, which activated GOP voters.
What all of this means on election day is that fewer Democrats will be going to the polls. Even a difference of 1-2% along with an expected increase in Republican turnout keeps Romney in the game and raises his prospects for victory.
Fewer Democrats voting can only be good news for Romney who, with the selection of Paul Ryan, has virtually assured himself a very high turnout of the Republican base and enthusiasm across the party spectrum.