Philadelphia Metropolis


The Big Question

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I was sure someone would do something to rev up turnout in Philadelphia on Tuesday, but I never imaged it would be Tom Corbett.

Corbett, the Republican candidate for governor, got into hot water last week by saying he hoped voter turnout in Philadelphia would be below 50 percent.

"We want to make sure they don't get 50 percent," Corbett told a gathering of Delaware County Republicans, later aired on YouTube. "Keep that down."

people-voting.jpgWell, he certainly got a reaction to those 12 words. Gov. Rendell called the comments "almost a federal crime." Mayor Nutter held a news conference with prominent Democratic pols at City Hall  to express his OUTRAGE and HORROR over the remarks.

In other words, the Democrats tried their best to make Corbett's remarks a rallying cry for increasing turnout, by suggesting that the Republican candidate was trying to suppress turnout in the city (which he was not) and especially turnout by black voters ("they").

The charges are ludicrous, but Democrats pray they are effective.

The chances of Democratic candidate Dan Onorato may hinge upon how many voters turn out in Philly on Tuesday. I don't think it is going to be anywhere near 50 percent - that would be 500,000-plus voters.

Anybody out there want to place a bet on what it will be?

For the record, there are 1,064,00 registered voters in the city, but that is not a real number. (It actually falls a tad below the Census Bureau of slightly exceeds the number of adults over 18).  It's hard to have 101 percent of your eligible adults registered.

The actual number is more likely to be somewhere around 830,000 of real, haven't-moved-and-haven't died voters. Getting half of them to vote is doable.  And if Onorato does, it will be happy day for the Democrat.

There are two countervailing trends at work here. Over the last 40 years, the city has become increasing Democratic in its voting habits.  Democratic candidates regularly get a 75 to 85 percent share of the total vote. In 2006, for instance, when Ed Rendell ran for re-election he got a staggering 89 percent share. His hapless Republican opponent, Lynn Swann got a lousy 11 percent. (So much for the theory that blacks will only vote for blacks candidates.)

Election Results Pix.jpgThe other side of the trend is that voter turnout has gone down. Look at the graphic in this piece and you will see that in the 1960's the total vote average around 645,000. In the last 10 years, the average has been around 395,000 total votes.

On Tuesday, it is likely that Onorato will get 80 percent or more of the total vote cast in Philadelphia.  The big question is 80 percent of what?

Most folks familiar with Philadelphia's voting history that I have talked to believe turnout in the city will be low to middling, certainly below 400,000. If it's as low as it was in 1998 - a total of 309,000 votes cast in the city - then you can play taps for the statewide Democratic candidates.

This explains the presence of President Obama and his wife and Bill Clinton in this territory.  They know that the outcome of the U.S. Senate race between Joe Sestak and Pat Toomey and the Onorato-Corbett race - both competitive races - may be determined by the number of people within a 10 mile radius of City Hall who roust themselves out on Tuesday and go vote.

It also explains the ANGER and the SHOCK and the HORROR over Corbett's innocuous remarks.


- TF



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