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WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. — David Butler voted for Richard Nixon in 1972, then kept voting for GOP candidates through Watergate, Reaganomics and the Bill Clinton years.
This year, though, the 59-year-old teacher switched his registration to Democrat, and he said he plans to vote Tuesday for Illinois Sen. Barack Obama.
Since Jan. 1, more than 178,000 people in Pennsylvania have changed their party affiliations, and 92 percent of them have gone from Republican or independent to Democrat.
Some 4.2 million Democrats are eligible to vote in Tuesday's presidential primary, and the Pennsylvania Department of State predicted Monday that turnout could be as high as 50 percent.
If a big chunk of the party-switchers side with Obama, they could give him a decided edge.
That edge is hard to quantify, however. "While the switch is being driven by a number of factors, it's clear Obama's creating excitement," said Brad Coker, managing partner of Mason-Dixon Polling & Research.