Pennsylvania's Democratic primary is still over a month away, but Barack Obama's campaign is already out in full force in the Keystone State.
Obama has tried to downplay expectations for his performance in the state thus far, saying during a speech Tuesday that Hillary Clinton "is favored to win in a blowout." But both the Politico and the Los Angeles Times have published stories recently about the Obama campaign's efforts to register thousands of independent and Republican voters as Democrats before the March 24 voter registration deadline. The vote itself will be held on April 22; as it's what's called a "closed" primary, only registered Democrats will be allowed to participate in the Democratic half of the primary.
If the Obama campaign is to pull off an upset, the new registrants will be vitally important. As the Politico's Carrie Budoff Brown observes, "The final tabulations [of the voter rolls] from the Department of State could offer the first tangible indications of whether Obama can catch Clinton in a state where she holds the advantage."
So far, Clinton has tended to have an edge over Obama in closed primaries. With some exceptions, Obama typically attracts more support from Republicans and independents than his opponent, and he'll definitely need their votes this time around. The demographics of the state's Democrats seem to favor Clinton, and many of the state's most powerful Democratic politicians have endorsed her, including Gov. Ed Rendell and the mayors of Philadelphia and Pittsburgh.
While the Politico piece focuses on the Obama campaign's efforts to convert Republicans and independents, an article in the Philadelphia Inquirer from Wednesday indicates that the strategy adopted by Obama officials in Pennsylvania is similar to what they've employed in many other states. Marcia Gelbart and Dwight Ott write, "The Obama campaign is largely going after the coalition of voters it has relied on to win elsewhere: African Americans, college-age students, and independents who register as Democrats for the primary." In recent days, Obama organizers and staffers have reportedly been highly visible on Pennsylvania’s numerous college campuses.
According to the L.A. Times, the Obama campaign is seeking to register an additional 100,000 voters as Democrats in the next two weeks. Currently, there are 3.89 million registered Democratic voters in the state.
Obama himself has even been tapped for a video explaining registration and voting procedures. The video, which was posted to his campaign Web site's blog on Friday, can be viewed below.