According to exit polls from Tuesday’s primary in Mississippi, 13 percent of voters in the Democratic primary were self-described Republicans, and 78 percent of them voted for Hillary Clinton. Clinton also won handily among the 37 percent of voters in the Democratic primary who like GOP nominee John McCain. Before the March 4 primaries in Texas and Ohio, conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh urged Republicans to vote for Clinton. (CNN.com) Nine percent of voters in the Texas and Ohio Democratic primaries were also Republican. (London Daily Telegraph)
What the commentators said
Democrats must be “absolutely outraged, incensed, and weeping with frustration,” said Rick Moran in the blog RightWing Nuthouse, at the thought of “tens of thousands of Republican voters” meddling in the Democratic primaries. Clearly, these “GOP pranksters” have not turned from “rabid dog Clinton haters into slavish Hillary bots”—they just think McCain has a better chance against Clinton than Barack Obama. It's “dirty play,” sure, but “the netroots” would be doing the same thing to promote the Republican they wanted to run against “if the shoe were on the other foot.”
The idea that Limbaugh has convinced a significant number of GOP voters to “cross party lines” to sink Obama is a “fun theory,” said Ben Smith in Politico. But a few “notes of skepticism” are in order. First, exit polls are based on “small samples,” and thus unreliable. Also, Limbaugh wasn’t “campaigning for Hillary in Mississippi,” although he did suggest that Republicans switch parties for Pennsylvania’s closed primary.
The “Rush Limbaugh strategy” worked in Ohio, so why not Pennsylvania, said Barron YoungSmith in The New Republic. The Cleveland Plain Dealer reports that there was “heavy crossover voting” among Republicans statewide, including 16,000 GOP voters who cast ballots in the Democratic race in Cuyahoga County alone. Since “an estimated 24 percent of Hillary’s support” in Mississippi came from Republicans, it is “probably safe to say” that the GOP gave her a few extra delegates in Ohio, too.
It is “sort of hard to imagine” that so many Mississippi Republicans “have suddenly fallen for Hillary,” said Andrew Romano in Newsweek’s Stumper blog. Whatever the explanation—Rush Limbaugh or “white racial animosity toward Obama,” maybe—Republicans were “her single strongest group” in the primary. Still, the debate is an academic one for Mississippi, as it is “doubtful” that either Obama or Clinton will win the state in November.