A new media analysis of U.S. voter registration data shows that more than one million voters have reregistered as Republicans over the last year. That number, while dramatic on its own, might just be a glimpse into the changes that are ongoing in the national electorate.
No one will know until the next election whether this high number of voters re-registering as Republicans – and it’s important to note that not every state requires or even allows a voter to select a party affiliation when registering – reflects a changing attitude among the American electorate or an underhanded effort by progressives to interfere in the GOP’s nominating process.
While that sounds conspiratorial, it’s important to note that no less an authority than The New York Times reported Monday that the more Trumpian candidate in the race for the GOP nomination for governor of Illinois – State Sen. Darren Bailey – had seen his campaign’s aspirations boosted “by an unprecedented intervention from (Illinois incumbent Democratic Gov. J.B.) Pritzker and the Pritzker-funded Democratic Governors Association, which has spent nearly $35 million combined” attacking Bailey’s opponent in Tuesday’s GOP primary as being insufficiently conservative.
The voter registration study conducted by two reporters working for the Associated Press using data provided by L2, a political data firm, concluded the 1.7 million voters who changed their party affiliations over the last year constitute a “definite reversal from the period while Trump was in office when Democrats enjoyed a slight edge in the number of party switchers nationwide.”
“Statistical modeling of the data revealed that of the 1.7 million voters over 1 million registered as Republican, while only 630,000 registered as Democrats – a massive shift in new partisan allegiance from the Trump years,” the website Mediate reported in its coverage of the story.
Whether this is a plus for conservatives specifically or the GOP generally has yet to be determined. Looking at the numbers and where they come from, most of the change appears to be happening in the suburbs in battleground states like Wisconsin and Georgia that, while typically more conservative than the cities they abut gave a majority of their votes to Joe Biden rather than Donald Trump in the 2020 presidential election.
The AP analysis attributed the switch to voters becoming “increasingly concerned about the Democrats’ support in some localities for mandatory COVID-19 vaccines, the party’s inability to quell violent crime, and its frequent focus on racial justice.” Perhaps, although that sounds like the kind of political shorthand a liberal might use to explain what was going on without having to delve into the issue too deeply. There’s indeed been an anti-lockdown component to some primaries already ended – and the prolonged closure of public schools in New Jersey and Virginia may have had a profound impact on the 2021 gubernatorial and state legislative elections in New Jersey and Virginia but that’s only part of the story.
What’s notable on the list of factors is what is missing. There’s not a single economic issue on it. Taxes, spending, jobs – issues that voters consistently say are at the top of the list of things they care about – are, in the AP analysis, not driving the shift among voters leaving the Democrats for the GOP.
That’s hard to believe, especially for anyone old enough to remember Bill Clinton’s successful 1992 campaign for president where his consultants posted a sign on the headquarters wall to remind him and themselves that “It’s the economy, stupid.”
The areas where voters are switching also include counties “around medium-size cities such as Harrisburg, Pennsylvania; Raleigh, North Carolina; Augusta, Georgia; and Des Moines, Iowa,” as well as “areas like Atlanta, Denver, Pittsburgh, and Cleveland”. These are all places where Biden’s mismanagement of the economy is hitting home hard. The president may like to brag about the number of jobs he says have been “created” since he took office but, as any reasonable person understands intuitively, most of those are jobs that existed before the lockdowns were imposed and which came back first in states led by GOP governors.
Voters like these are the ones most likely to feel the pinch of higher gas prices, the pain of doing more with less at the supermarket and the challenge of rising interest rates present to existing homeowners and those looking for a new place to live.
In a statement to the AP, Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel voiced excitement over the prospect Biden’s blunders will result in her party making significant gains in the next election. The president and the Democrats, she said, “are woefully out of touch with the American people, and that’s why voters are flocking to the Republican Party in droves,” adding she believes “American suburbs will trend red for cycles to come.”
According to the AP, of the roughly 1.7 million Americans who changed their party affiliation over the past 12 months, two-thirds became members of the GOP while the others went the other way. While probably not enough to shift the outcome of a national race these changes, if they are a legitimate reflection of changing voter sentiments and not an effort to ensure conservative nominees are chosen to run in places where a more moderate member of the GOP could easily win, the movement of one million voters who were formerly Democrats, independents or members of third parties into the GOP is significant enough to determine the outcome in contests that may be especially close.
If that’s true, it’s still not likely to make the difference in which party controls either chamber of Congress next January but it could have an impact on the size of the GOP’s margins of majority in the House and Senate, if, as expected, the Republicans take back Congress. This will have an impact on the confirmation of judges and what legislation actually makes it to the president’s desk, it sets up a meaningful contrast between the two parties that will likely influence the outcome of the 2024 presidential election no matter who the major party nominees are.