Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Putting the Rush on Obama

I don't listen to Rush Limbaugh. I get enough of him when my dad channels him. (I love my dad anyway.)

But a friend of mine who listens out of sheer masochism tells me that Rush has been urging Republicans to vote for Hillary Clinton if they live in an open primary state. The goal would be to sow chaos in the primary process, force the Dems to go bankrupt fighting each other, provoke a divided and brokered convention, and throw the nomination to the weaker candidate. And Rush has his own dog in this race: He would reap sky-high ratings because Hillary is the feminazi his dittoheads most love to hate.

Now the exit poll results from Mississippi give evidence that Republican voters may be taking this message to heart. Salon's War Room reports:
In open primaries, Obama has traditionally done better among Republicans and independents than Clinton has, but on Tuesday, Clinton won big among Republicans. Thirteen percent of the total electorate was Republican; they went for Clinton 77-23. Obama took independents, who accounted for 17 percent of voters, 51-48.
Of course, this being the Deep South, it's possible that some of these Republicans cast a vote for Clinton out of sheer overt racism. But it seems equally plausible that some are playing Rush's game. And both things could be true at once.

In Mississippi, this is at least legal. In Ohio, it's not. You can vote in either party's primary, but you'll be registered as a member of the party whose ballot you select. If you switch to the other party just to game the system and not because you actually subscribe to that party's principles and positions, then you've broken the law.

Of course, it's well-nigh impossible to prove that some voted in good faith - or bad. Anectodally, I've heard that a few students have bragged publicly about doing this in Athens, with impunity, of course. Still, the law's intent is clearly not to allow people to vote for what they perceive as the other party's weaker candidate.

Via my friend The Political Cat comes an analysis by Scott Isaacs at NewsVine:
Butler County in southwest Ohio is the most Republican county of all Ohio's 88 counties. 26 county offices and none of them are held by Democrats. Yet, the strangest thing happened on Tuesday... the Butler County Democratic Party increased in registered members by over 200% and now has more registered members than the Republican Party. Hillary Clinton won this county in the Democratic Primary by 10%.

Barack Obama won only 5 out of 88 counties in Ohio and those counties were the ones where Democrats are abundant. Yet Hillary Clinton won the state by only 10%. I have been told directly by Republicans here in Ohio that they voted for Hillary for the express purpose to either cause a split convention or to get her nominated because they know she is the weakest candidate against John McCain. To a person they will all be returning to voting Republican in the general election. To a judge monitoring the elections, Marilyn Hatfield, numerous Republicans taking a Democratic ballot said they were voting for Hillary "because of that thing Rush said." (Source: Hamilton Journal News, 3-6-08)
It's worth looking at the rest of Isaacs' piece. Among other things, he notes that failure to exercise good faith amounts to election falsification, a fifth-degree felony.

Similar behavior was reported in Cuyahoga County, according to the Cleveland Plain Dealer:
A staggering 16,000-plus Republicans in Cuyahoga County switched parties when they voted in last week's primary.

That includes 931 in Rocky River, 1,027 in Westlake and 1,142 in Strongsville. More than a third of the Republicans in Solon and Bay Village switched. Pepper Pike had the most dramatic change: just under half of its Republicans became Democrats. And some of those who changed - it's difficult to say how many - could be in trouble with the law.

At least one member of the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections wants to investigate some Republicans who may have crossed party lines only to influence which Democrat would face John McCain in November.

In theory, poll workers are supposed to challenge anyone they suspect of not acting in good faith. But that's like asking my mom to do that. She's a mild-mannered, patient, grandmotherly former church secretary - a typical poll worker, and in fact she's worked the polls several times. She'd want to be nice. Give the benefit of the doubt. Avoid making waves. At my polling place, one of the ladies earnestly told me and the Bear that we had to take off our Obama buttons while inside. But that's as confrontational as they get.

Were there enough crossover Hillary votes to change the outcome in Ohio? I'm inclined to think that other factors like her hideously fearmongering 3 a.m. ad played a major role, and since the bad-faith crossover voters aren't exactly outing themselves (apart from the aforementioned brainless students) we have no idea how numerous they were. But since the Democratic delegates are awarded proportionally, every vote matters. Plus, Clinton's wide margin of victory helped her spinmeisters portray Ohio as her turnaround moment.

Update 3/14/08: In comments, The Political Cat points out a post on this issue by Maru at WTF Is It Now?!? that links to a good Wired article on the Ohio Rushbots. One highlight: "Election falsification is a felony that is punishable by six to twelve months in jail and a $2,500 fine."

Photo by Flickr user Roadsidepictures, used under a Creative Commons license.


Rence said...

First of all, In Mississippi the Republican turnout for Hillary Clinton definitely made a difference. The threshold for another two delegates for Obama was 62.5% of the vote, and in the end he received 61% and change. Without the 15% of voters who voted for Clinton and said they would be satisfied if she won, it's clear there was enough of a problem there to at least mess up the delegate count. -

Second of all, here's a great article from a diary at DailyKOS all about this issue:

I posted this in your class but while other students were still working on the quiz.

Sugarmag said...

Hey Sungold, My dad listens to Rush too, not because he agrees but because he thinks it's important to know what Rush is saying. I don't know how he can stand it. A good reason not to is that sometimes it's just on and my parents are not listening critically and then they remember things that aren't even true and they don't remember where they heard it. I have had more than one conversation with them where I have said, "That's not even true. You must have gotten that from Rush Limbaugh."

I don't think there is anything wrong with crossing over in the primary as long as a person votes for the candidate they believe to be the best one, and I don't think that is playing the system. It is very wrong to vote for the weaker candidate and the best reason not to is is that the so called weaker candidate might win the election, and then what? I have crossed over myself but only to vote for the better candidate. I think it's undemocratic to keep people from voting in whatever primary they want, I don't see how legislation can keep people from voting in bad faith.
When I was younger I used to say that I would rather vote for a yellow dog than a Republican, but now that I have lived awhile I have voted Republican because our local Democrats kind of suck. I have gotten solicitations for donations in the mail, and I delight in marking $0 on the donation amount and sending it back in their prepaid envelope. It's ridiculous that I take the time to do that but it's good for a giggle.

ThePoliticalCat said...

Hey, Kittywampus,

Maru over at WTF Is It Now? says the linecrossing voters are about to be bit on the butt bigtime, as they have to sign a pledge that they are genuinely voting their convictions, and can be prosecuted for a felony if they aren't. Oh, and it looks as if they may have to vote the same way in the general.

Sungold said...

Thanks for all your comments.

Rence, let's hope it doesn't come down to a couple of Mississippi delegates at the convention!!

Sugar Mag: I agree that if a state has an open primary, people should be free to vote their conscience. Of course you're right that the Ohio law is virtually unenforceable unless someone brags in print or online and is too dumb to stay anonymous. But I also think parties have a responsibility to represent their members and supporters, and that means they should be able to restrict primary voting to their members if they so desire.

Political Cat: I just checked out Maru's post. It seems the Mississippi voters boxed themselves in for run-off elections (not for the general, because you're free to vote however you like come November). He also links to a great article in Wired, which I'm going to add to my post as an update. Thanks!