Overall, Democrats now account for less than 50 percent of all registered voters in Luzerne, down from a high of
59 percent in 2008.
More troubling for Democrats have been the GOP gains in neighboring Lackawanna County. Home to Scranton and the city’s large blue-collar and Catholic population, the country has historically been another Democrat stronghold. In 2012, Obama carried the county on his way to reelection by nearly 30 percentage points. The county’s affinity for Democrats remained significant in 2016, despite Trump’s appeal to blue-collar voters. In that cycle, Clinton carried Lackawanna narrowly, 49.8 percent to Trump’s 46.3 percent.
Democrats’ hold on the county might be about to break, though. In between August and September of this year, Republicans registered 470 voters. Much like in Luzerne, GOP gains appear to be coming from Democrat defections.
The Pennsylvania’s Department of State indicates that since January, more than 460 Democrats in the county have switched their party affiliation. In the same period, on the other hand, only 201 Republicans did the same in Lackawanna county. Further illustrating the divergence is that the department’s data shows 19 Democrats switched affiliations in the last week of September, compared to only four Republicans.
Citizens’ Voice, a local northeastern Pennsylvania newspaper, reported in July, the number of registered Democrats in Lackawanna has fallen to levels unseen since 1997.
Registration trends evidenced in Luzerne and Lackawanna are even more substantial given that the areas are losing population. Since 2010, the U.S. Census Bureau estimates that both counties are likely to lose somewhere between 3,000 to 5,000 residents by the end of the decade.
Jim Bognet, the Republican candidate for Pennsylvania’s 8th congressional district, which includes Lackawanna County and portions of Luzerne County, told Breitbart News part of the shift has resulted from Democrats moving too far out of the mainstream.
“We’re seeing tremendous enthusiasm for President Trump and Republican candidates, like me,” Bognet said. “I’m definitely talking to people on a day-to-day basis who say ‘I’ve been a Democrat all my life, but I’m voting Trump and for you because the Democrats have left me.'”
Bognet added that the Democrat’s embrace of controversial issues, such as defunding the police and an unwillingness to stand up to rioting, was only stressing that divide for average citizens.
The GOP candidate also stressed that while Democrats may be alienating voters, it was a mistake to assume, as some on the left have done, that Trump’s support among blue-collar and union workers was not real.
“I talk in my stump speech every day how in the 1980s, in this district, you could support a family on one income in the manufacturing sector, and those days [were] long gone,” Bognet said. “But my focus, and the president’s focus, on creating made in America manufacturing jobs … is resonating with blue-collar workers.”
Local Pennsylvania Democrats seem to agree with Bognet’s assessment. Chris Patrick, the chairman of the Lackawanna County Democrat Committee, told the
Citizen’s Voice in July that registering voters in the region is becoming more difficult because of the perceived “far-left liberalism” of national Democrats.
“I talk to a lot of people who I know are lifelong Democrats and they’re like, ‘I’ve had it. This Democratic Party isn’t the party that my parents belonged to. The thing has gone, far left, progressive.'” Patrick
told the paper.
Given the voter registration advantage for Republicans, many strategists fear that the Democrat ticket, both up and down the ballot, faces a stronger challenge in carrying Pennsylvania this cycle than most polls suggest.
Biden, though, just now seems to be taking the threat seriously. Earlier this week, the former vice president’s campaign
announced that it would restart in-person canvassing once more, something it opted to forgo at the onset of the novel coronavirus pandemic. A top target of the efforts, Biden campaign told the press, would be Pennsylvania, starting with a campaign swing through the state by the former vice president, himself.