HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — In a year in which voters nationwide are relatively unenthusiastic about the presidential election, Pennsylvania has a half-million fewer registered voters than four years ago, and Democrats' registration advantage has narrowed.
In fact, numbers available Tuesday show that voter registration in Pennsylvania for the contest between Democratic President Barack Obama and Republican Mitt Romney may not even exceed the total registered in 2004, when then-President George W. Bush, a Republican, was challenged by Democrat John Kerry.
"The state has moved into a more neutral position, in terms of momentum for either party, and that reflects to some extent the more disengaged public that we have right now," said pollster and political scientist Christopher Borick of Muhlenberg College in Allentown.
He added, "there's no real wind at the back of either party and no real enthusiasm that's within the electorate as a whole."
Still, that hasn't stopped efforts to sign up new voters. Clipboard-holding political party and campaign workers go door-to-door or show up at train platforms, music festivals, county fairs, parades and other gatherings with blank voter registration forms in case they find someone who wants to register while they are otherwise trying to remind party faithful to vote.
"I take them everywhere," said Ce-Ce Gerlach, 26, an Obama campaign volunteer in Allentown. "I think that's every volunteer, and it was the same thing as in 2008. Once you're involved, you're involved. You start registering people when you're in line at the grocery store. It's a never-ending process."
Oct. 9 is the deadline to register for the Nov. 6 election, in which Pennsylvania is viewed as one of the nation's most crucial swing states — underscored by the volume of political ads running in the state.
At least $13 million has been spent on presidential campaign TV ads in Pennsylvania since April 17, according to information from several outside ad buyers provided to The Associated Press.
Through July 11, Obama's campaign had spent more than $4.8 million, while a Democratic super political action committee, Priorities USA Action, had devoted almost $1.8 million. Romney's campaign was not on the air in Pennsylvania up to that point, but a Republican super PAC, Crossroads GPS, had spent about $2.8 million, a pro-Romney super PAC, Restore Our Future, had spent $1.8 million and the conservative group Americans For Prosperity had spent $2 million.
The most recent independent poll in Pennsylvania, released June 12 by Quinnipiac University, showed registered voters favoring Obama over Romney, 46 percent to 40 percent.
Currently, Democrats outnumber Republicans by fewer than 1.1 million registered voters. That compares to a more than 1.2 million voter advantage Democrats held when Obama won Pennsylvania in 2008 by 10 percentage points over Republican John McCain.
The current total of about 8.25 million registered voters is far below the 8.75 million registered in 2008, as the number of new registered voters has not kept up with people moving, dying or being purged from the voter rolls due to years of inactivity.
The current total is even more than 100,000 fewer than in the 2004 presidential election.
Still, Democrats have an advantage in signing up new voters. More than 300,000 new Democrats have registered this year alone, compared to 222,000 Republicans and 175,000 third-party members and independents.
Republicans, meanwhile, hold a 19,000-voter edge over Democrats in registered voters switching parties this year.
Associated Press writer Beth Fouhy in New York contributed to this report.