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Signing up new Dems is key for Barack Obama

March 13, 2008 |  8:40 pm

April 22 may be primary day in Pennsylvania, but as Barack Obama gears up to at least try to hold his own in that vote, there's another date that is first and foremost for him and his staff.

That would be March 24, the last day for Pennsylvanians not currently registered as Democrats to sign up with the party in order to vote in the primary.

The contest is closed to non-Democrats -- a problem for Obama, who generally has performed better in states where independents can participate in the party's primary. So here's the latest test for the ground-level skills that the Obama camp has displayed in so many other places: Getting as big a chunk as possible of the almost 1 million Pennsylvanians who are unaffiliated with a major party to officially declare themselves Democrats. Obama staffers also are targeting those who are simply un-registered.

The campaign has set an ambitious goal: adding about 100,000 folks to the Democratic rolls before the books close on March 24. To that end, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported earlier this week that a wave of Obama organizers has been routed to Pennsylvania. They are paying particular attention ...

to swelling the number of Democrats in Pennsylvania's 35 college towns.

While this grassroots activity takes place, Obama has sought, for public consumption, to lower expectations for himself in the Keystone State.

Rival Hillary Clinton, he said during a brief bit of stumping in Pennsylvania on Tuesday, "is favored to win in a blowout." And he's repeated variations of that comment to anyone who asks.

Clinton has the early lead in facetime in the state. She campaigned there Monday and Tuesday (starting in Scranton, her dad's hometown), and has an appearance scheduled in Pittsburgh on Friday.

Obama, by contrast, is in his hometown of Chicago on Friday and campaigns Saturday in Indiana (where a May 6 primary, much to the surprise of all concerned, now matters).

-- Don Frederick

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