The overall number of Pennsylvania voters has decreased by three percent since 2008, according to state data, and the slump is hitting registered Democrats harder than Republicans.
Democrat voter registration is down 5.1%, with 229,396 fewer voters, and Republicans are down 3.5% with 112,796 fewer registrants. Registered Independents are up 7% with 73,043 more voters, but this isn't exactly good news for Romney, as multiple polls have found indies breaking for Obama, unlike other toss-up states. Statewide, party breakdown stands at 50% Democrat, 37% Republican, and 13% Independent/other.
In the southwest corner of the state, GOP registration is up in six counties, including Beaver County, where Congressman Paul Ryan made a campaign stop last Saturday. The region, rich in energy-sector jobs, is peppered with signs reading, "Stop the War on Coal! Fire Obama." According to Keystone College professor Jeff Brauer, this anti-Obama sentiment is far stronger than voters' affinity for either candidate:
“The true enthusiasm I’ve seen in this election cycle has been against Barack Obama,” Brauer said. “I haven’t seen as much enthusiasm, especially in Pennsylvania, for Mitt Romney or for Barack Obama. But there seems to be a lot of enthusiasm to get rid of Barack Obama. That in itself is going to give Republicans a bit of an edge.”
While it is clear Republicans do have an enthusiasm advantage compared to 2008, Romney will likely need to visit the state in the coming weeks to make a closer connection with potential supporters. Analysts predict election-day turnout will drop to 60% of eligible residents, compared to 62% in 2008. Therefore, Romney will need to take steps to parlay undecideds' dissatisfaction with President Obama into a decision to vote for an opponent rather than a decision to sit out the election.
A Pennsylvania win for the GOP challenger would be a critical buffer on election night. It would cancel out Obama gaining the electoral votes of both Wisconsin and Minnesota, or it would be a net gain against a potential Obama victory in Ohio.