Friday, March 21, 2008

The Positives of a Long Campaign

I greatly respect and fundamentally agree with Libby's plea for unity or at least introspection before launching blue on blue political attacks of outstanding dumbness.  I also think that the primary season is soon to wind down as the current delegate counts, remaining delegate counts and the numbers needed to move either the delegate counts or cause super-delegate reconsideration to chance the order of finish from Obama-Clinton to Clinton-Obama are most likely not there.  Bill Richardson's endorsement of Obama last night is an illustration of the basic dynamic, as that is one more high profile vote that the Clinton campaign was hoping to swing their way on the argument that she is the better general election candidate. 
We have two very good candidates and while it is getting nasty, there are several positive externalities being generated.  Pennsylvania is a lean blue swing state where John McCain has a real, but low probability of winning in the general election.  However the state is becoming more blue today than it was six months ago, and the campaign infrastructure will be in place to sustain the momentum several months earlier than it was in either the 2006 off-year or the 2004 Presidential election.  The Pittsburgh Tribune Review is carrying two stories on this front today.
First, Democratic voter registration numbers are increasing massively while Republicans are losing net voters.  This may partially be due to the closed primary and tactical voting, but I don't think this is a powerful explanation.  There is also some shifting of independent/non-affiliated voters who are re-registering as Democrats as there is at least one candidate who inspires them to become more involved.  For instance, a person with whom I am very close with is a reliable liberal voter but was registered unaffiliated.  This person likes Clinton and re-registered as a Democrat and due to inertia will most likely remain a registered Democrat which means a more likely GOTV target.  A lot of new voters are coming into the party:
The ranks of registered Democrats in Pennsylvania swelled by more than 111,000 since the fall, according to state figures, showing that voters are scrambling to take part in the state's most important presidential primary in decades, political observers say.

Campaigns for Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama promised to send thousands of organizers and volunteers across the state this weekend in a final push to register voters. To participate in the April 22 Democratic primary, voters must register with the party by Monday.

The number of registered Republicans fell more than 13,000 during the same time period, according to the Pennsylvania Department of State....

During the first week of heavy campaigning in Pennsylvania, which began March 10 with appearances by both candidates and former President Clinton, more than 22,000 registered voters switched to the Democratic Party, according to the state department.
So the state registrered Democratic edge increased by a net of 124,000 individuals.  And it should increase by a bit more this weekend.  Both the Clinton and Obama campaigns are promising very aggressive canvassing, registration and change-over drives this weekend to get as many new Democratic voters registered by Monday afternoon which is the last day of eligbility for anyone who wants to vote in the April primary.
Secondly, the field offices are opening up early and often.  For instance the Tribune-Review is reporting on a Greensburg field office for Obama ---

Dappenbrook of Beaver County and dozens of others gathered Thursday afternoon at the newly opened downtown Greensburg office of the Obama campaign.

Obama's staffers, who arrived in town last week, formally inaugurated campaign activities yesterday and in the next few days will intensify efforts to register voters before Monday's deadline for the April 22 primary....Westmoreland County, with its more than 130,000 registered Democrats, is considered a key area in the race between Obama and Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York.

The Clinton campaign has numerous field offices in Southwestern PA, the Obama campaign has numerous offices out here, and they are organizing areas that typically don't get touched until the last couple of weeks before a general election.  The energy is real, and it is producing a surge in interest and activism.  This is a good thing, and as long as the campaigns keep on the current path, there will be bruises and a couple of bloody noses, but no long lasting internal bleeding or organ damage. 

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