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Specter’s Base Is Eroding

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Philadelphia County lost an even larger number of GOP voters — 22,203 — from 2004 to 2008, while Democratic registrations increased by 152,814. Specter defeated Toomey in that county by 7,050 votes.

The other populous counties surrounding Philadelphia, including Delaware, Bucks and Chester counties, also saw GOP registrations drop by at least 11,000. Specter won all three of those counties by fewer than 8,000 votes in the GOP primary. Those three counties, plus Montgomery and Philadelphia, saw the largest drop in Republican registrations from 2004 to 2008 in the entire Keystone State.

The Pennsylvania GOP will have a challenge when it comes to retrieving former Republicans. According to a recent survey, the majority of those voters were longtime members of the party before they became Democrats.

In a recent Muhlenberg College poll of 400 Pennsylvania voters who switched their registration from Republican to Democrat in 2007 and 2008, 53 percent reported that they had been members of the Republican Party for at least 20 years. The survey, taken Nov. 19-26, had a margin of error of 4.5 points.

But if they’ll switch back for anyone, it might well be for Specter. The survey also found that 67 percent of the party-switching respondents supported abortion rights, while only 19 percent were anti-abortion. Specter is one of only a few Republicans in the Senate who supports abortion rights.

Republican consultant Vince Galko, who ran former Sen. Rick Santorum’s (R-Pa.) 2006 campaign, said he thinks the state GOP’s dwindling ranks will rebound.

“I think the registration deficit will shrink in the next couple months,” Galko said.

Galko, who also used to work for Specter, said the Senator will have to mount a campaign to switch Democratic voters back to Republicans for the primary.

It would not be the first time Keystone State voters have seen such a drive. When Gov. Ed Rendell (D) ran for his first term in 2002, he implemented a campaign to get moderate Republicans to change parties in order to vote for him in the closed Democratic primary over now-Sen. Bob Casey (D). Although the number of crossover voters as a result of the campaign could never be determined for sure, local operatives say Rendell re-registered 40,000 Philadelphia area Republicans as Democrats.

A second wave of voter registration switches occurred before April 2008, when many Republicans switched to vote in the Democratic presidential primary — a contest that then-Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) won resoundingly.

“Most of those voters switched for Hillary Clinton and not Barack Obama, so I think they’d be willing to come back over to the [Republican] Party,” Valko said.

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