Can Voter Registration Drives Propel a Candidate to Victory?

October 2008
The Denver Post released a new poll Sunday finding Barack Obama and John McCain in a dead heat: Each has the support of 44% of voters while 8% remain undecided. A graph of the results can be viewed here. According to the Post,
The race for Colorado's nine electoral votes probably will be won among the state's unaffiliated voters. Colorado's voter registration is split roughly into thirds, with unaffiliateds second to Republicans. Obama earns his tie in the state by gaining a lead among unaffiliateds to offset McCain's strong support among Republicans.
The Washington Post reports that voter registration is way up among Democrats in all of the swing states. In Colorado, the ratio of newly registered Democrats over Republicans is 4:1. According to the WAPO article,
In Colorado, which Bush won by 100,000 votes in 2004, Republicans were well in the lead for registrations at the start of the year but are now on the verge of being overtaken. By Sept. 1, Democratic registration was up by 80,000, partly because of the Democrats-only caucuses in February.
The Denver Post's poll was of registered voters. It reports:
A total of 625 registered Colorado voters were interviewed statewide by telephone. All stated they were likely to vote in the November general election. An additional 200 independent/unaffiliated voters also were interviewed, and the statewide results have been proportionately weighted to reflect the responses of all independent/unaffiliated voters.
I think the Post's poll ignores two factors: Telephone polls don't include cell phone numbers and many younger voters only have cell phones. Given Obama's greater support among younger voters, this could mean he has more support in the State than the poll indicates. Second, and more importantly, I wonder if the poll takes into account newly registered voters. It works off voter registration lists, and the last list released by the Secretary of State before September 29 to October 1 , when the poll was taken, contains numbers for August. Presumably, those who registered in September, who according to the Washington Post may prefer Obama over McCain by 4:1, weren't polled. Since both Obama and McCain are continuing to make public appearances in Colorado, neither is taking anything for granted. But I see more of a cushion for Obama than what is indicated in the latest Denver Post poll.