Pennsylvania Democrats switched parties in large numbers

(AP Photo/Mike Stewart, File)

Republicans are nervously keeping an eye on the Pennsylvania Senate race between Democrat John Fetterman and GOP candidate Dr. Mehmet Oz. Losing that seat would make the climb toward retaking the Senate majority far steeper. And the latest news isn’t good for the Republicans. A new poll out yesterday shows Fetterman opening up a double-digit lead over Oz, and he’s doing it while barely showing up on the campaign trail because of medical issues. But there is still quite a way to go until the general election and some other developments suggest that Oz shouldn’t abandon all hope just yet.

One item of interest is the fact that more third-party candidates are entering the race. None of them appear to have the potential to win the seat outright, but if they can splinter the vote enough, that will shake up the balance of the race, potentially opening the door for Oz to win with a plurality. One other trend that should be worrying Pennsylvania Democrats was reported this week at the Free Beacon. Registration records show that Democrats have been switching parties at a brisk pace this year and registering as Republicans. It’s not exactly a tidal wave, but the numbers could easily be large enough in several counties that Biden carried narrowly in 2020 to flip them from blue to red.

Thousands of Pennsylvania Democrats switched their voter registration in the first half of the year to become Republicans, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported.

More than 8,100 Democrats changed their voter registration to Republican in the state’s western Allegheny, Armstrong, Butler, Beaver, Washington, and Westmoreland counties, according to Pennsylvania Department of State data, while less than a third of that number switched from Republican to Democrat. Across the entire Keystone State, more than 38,000 Democrats switched parties this year.

A blue exodus has taken place across the United States in the last year. As gas and food prices have skyrocketed under the Biden administration, more than a million voters across 43 states have left the Democratic Party and registered as Republicans.

Keep in mind that these numbers only reflect the Democrats who are so despondent over their party’s performance that they took the trouble to fill out the forms and officially change their registration. Given Biden’s dismal approval numbers in the Keystone State, there are probably more Democrats who won’t bother to fill out the paperwork but will wind up voting Republican this time or at least just stay home.

Also, the generic breakdown of Democrats and Republicans in the state won’t be what decides the race. Independent and third-party voters make up more than a third of the voting population. And at least on the national level, we’ve seen independents throwing the current president under the bus in significant numbers. And it will be the independents who have the final say in these midterm races once again.

Does that mean that the Pennsylvania independents who have soured on the Biden agenda will punish Fetterman in November by casting their votes for Oz? Not necessarily. If this were a presidential election year you would expect to see a lot more downdraft hurting the Democrats further down the ballot. But in the midterms, the old saying about all politics being local has at least a little more validity, though that saying isn’t really true in the modern era anymore.

This race has been a concern ever since the primaries were decided. Fetterman may not be an exciting candidate, but he quickly solidified the support of the state’s Democrats. Oz, on the other hand, was far more controversial and was seen as splintering the Republicans to a greater degree. His challenge was always going to be the task of herding all of the GOP cats back into the corral. Looking at this week’s polling, he hasn’t accomplished the task yet.