I will be voting in the Pennsylvania primary tomorrow, a usually ho-hum affair coming as late as it does in the season, but is said to have an outsized influence in 2016, this craziest of presidential election years. This is because the outcome of the Democratic primary may finally convince Bernie Sanders supporters that they need to stop eating Hillary Clinton's dust and the outcome of the Republican primary may determine whether Donald Trump can win his party's nomination outright.
Pennsylvania has gone Democratic in every presidential election since it helped elect George H. W. Bush over the hapless Michael Dukakis in 1988, and had gone for Ronald Reagan in 1980 and 1984. It is a confounding state politically, and to paraphrase James Carville, Bill Clinton's campaign manager in 1992, Pennsylvania is Philadelphia in the east, Pittsburgh in the west, and Alabama in the middle.
While that is not entirely accurate, it's close enough, and this has led to reports that Pennsylvania voters, a majority of whom are Democrats, are switching to Republican in large numbers so they could vote for Trump.
Not so, says Burwood Yost.
Yost is the chief methodologist for Terry Madonna, who runs the Franklin and Marshall Poll at the eponymously named college in Lancaster. They are hands down the two best Keystone State pollsters, which I know because I worked with them for years when I toiled at the Philadelphia Daily News.
Yost notes that reporting to the effect that there is a mass migration to the Republican column for Democrats who support Trump fits nicely into the national narrative "depicting high excitement among Republicans and the power of Donald Trump to attract new voter, but it turns out those numbers are wrong."
Only about 150,000 voters have switched parties this year, with 90,000 registering Republican as of April 3, but obscuring that factoid is that combined with the party switchers, overall there are now 222,000 new Democrats and 214,000 new Republicans since the last election.
Further clouding the picture, Yost explains, is that Republican registration is surging only in the southwest and northeast parts of the state, areas well known for having lots of "Reagan Democrats," people who are likely to vote tomorrow for the man with the small hands and peculiar hair.
While this bodes well for Trump in the primary, it does not mean that the Republican Party is in a better position to end its losing presidential election streak in Pennsylvania in November because there are still about a million more registered Democrats than Republicans.
And so Pennsylvania remains a blue state with purple tendencies, or something.
Yost, by the way, has an easy answer to false reports of a mass migration to Trump by Democrats. It's what he calls the Real Trump Effect.
"Members of the media were captured by the compelling national storyline about the Trump candidacy," he explains. "Knowingly or not, they substituted what they knew was happening elsewhere for what they thought might be happening in Pennsylvania. That's a too-common mistake when many of us make quick judgments, particularly about those things that seem to confirm what we think we know.
"But the media's essential function as our democracy's information gatekeeper is too important to rely on snap judgments or stories that fit information into a commonly accepted way of thinking."
I could not have said it better.
Incidentally, Trump and Hillary Clinton have comfortable double-digit leads in all Pennsylvania primary polls.
Trump leads Lyin' Ted Cruz by a 45 percent to 27 percent margin in an aggregate of polls, with John Kasich at 24 percent, while Clinton leads Bernie Sanders by a 55 percent to 40 percent margin. Nate Silver at FiveThirtyEight gives Trump and Clinton a 98 percent chance of winning their primaries, while I'm rooting for Kasich, faux moderate though he may be, to finish second ahead of the execrable Cruz.
In a much talked about wrinkle, the Republican results will be more symbolic than binding, with 54 of the state's 71 delegates free to back whomever they want at the party's nominating convention in Cleveland in July, which has led to speculation that if Trump gets the lion's share, he can cinch the nomination. We'll see.
The Democrats' 189 delegates will be allotted based on statewide performance, but in any event Clinton would kick Trump's ass (with or without Charlie Koch's help) from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh in the fall even if everything is Alabama in between.
Leave it to Donald Trump to reliably horrify. Campaigning in Philadelphia, which should deliver healthy majorities to Hillary Clinton and perhaps favor John Kasich, Trump is evoking memories of Frank Rizzo, the former mayor and police commissioner.
Rizzo, like Trump, was undeniably charismatic and an outsized and polarizing figure. As top cop, the Big Bambino rounded up homosexuals, made Black Panthers strip in the street, once appeared at a formal event with a nightstick stuck in his cummerbund, and -- my favorite -- singlehandedly ruined Philadelphia's bicentennial celebration summer in 1976 by scaring away tourists with claims that hippies were going to put LSD in the city's water system.
There is another apt comparison: Rizzo was never able to broaden his political base beyond the white law-and-order crowd. Ditto for The Donald.
POLITIX UPDATE IS WRITTEN BY SHAUN MULLEN, A VETERAN JOURNALIST AND BLOGGER FOR WHOM THE 2016 PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN IS HIS 12th SINCE 1968. CLICK HERE FOR AN INDEX OF PREVIOUS COLUMNS. © 2015-2016 SHAUN D. MULLEN.