The numbers from TargetSmart – a Democratic data firm – indicated that overall voter registration plummeted the past three months compared with the same time four years ago during the 2016 presidential election cycle. But the figures also show Democrats being hurt disproportionately and that most of the people who were registering tended to be whiter, older and less Democratic than before the pandemic swept the nation.
“The second the virus hit, we went completely virtual and we haven’t lost a step,” RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel said Monday morning in an interview on “Fox & Friends.”
Measures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus – such as DMV closures, stay-at-home orders and restrictions on large gatherings – have taken a big bite out of new voter registration efforts.
The figures from TargetSmart, which were first reported by Politico, pointed to declines for the Democrats in the key general election battleground states of Colorado, Florida, North Carolina and Pennsylvania, as well as in Maine.
“We’ve been building up our ground game for the past year. We’ve had people in all of these battleground states. We have the highest staff that we’ve ever had and we’ve activated over a million volunteers,” McDaniel touted. “We’ve registered more voters already than in the entire 2016 cycle.”
McDaniel’s comments came a couple of hours before Trump Victory – the joint field effort of the president’s reelection campaign and the RNC – announced the hiring of an additional 300 staffers set to hit 20 target states by Wednesday.
Trump Victory said the hires would bring their staffing to 1,500, which they touted as the largest field operation ever mounted by the Republicans. And they compared their staffing to the roughly 600 current staffers for Democratic challenger Joe Biden's campaign and the Democratic National Committee.
McDaniel also said the lingering effects of the coronavirus on universities and colleges may benefit the Republicans in the general election, by keeping down the population of college students who tend to favor the Democrats over the GOP.
“If these college campuses are vacant in the fall, it really changes some of these battleground states if the students aren’t there,” McDaniel explained. “For example, in New Hampshire, you’re not going to be able to do same-day registration and turn out all these college kids. So that’s going to change a lot of these states and the calculus for Democrats in some of their turnout models.”
The Democratic National Committee – pushing back on the registration narrative – pointed to recent figures in nine battlegrounds and other competitive states where their party had the registration edge. And they highlighted what they called “surging Democratic turnout across the country” in primaries last month, held long after the Democratic presidential nomination had been decided.
"We're taking nothing for granted, but overall Democrats are crushing Republicans in both registration and turnout. Our voters are energized, traditionally conservative parts of the electorate are being repulsed by Trump, and we're continuing to capitalize on the headwinds he's facing across the battleground states,” DNC battleground state communications director David Bergstein told Fox News.
And an updated analysis from TargetSmart - released on Friday - indicated that "we are seeing signs of the partisan registration gap closing" and an "upward trend in modeled Democratic identification among new registrants."
The initial good news for the GOP on new voter registrations comes as President Trump continues to trail Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee, in the most recent public opinion polls in many of the key battleground states, with just under four months to go until the November election. But the RNC chair joins the president in doubting those surveys.
“I really struggle with some of the mechanics behind these polls. This is not what we see at the RNC,” McDaniel said.