Today the Boston Globe seems to confirm rumors that Republicans voted for Hillary Clinton in Ohio, Texas, and Mississippi to undermine Barack Obama’s candidacy.
In Ohio and Texas on March 4, Republicans comprised 9 percent of the Democratic primary electorate, more than twice the average GOP share of the turnout in the earlier contests where exit polling was conducted. Clinton ran about even with Obama among Republicans in both states, a far more favorable showing among GOP voters than in the early races.
In Mississippi, her support among Republican voters (who comprised about 13 percent of voters) was a mind-boggling 75 percent.
There’s been plenty of skepticism about the “Rush effect.” It’s hard to find proof of tactical voting, since there are no data for how many Republicans normally cross over when their nomination is secure. Plus, there’s no way to know why Republicans voted for Clinton. Ambinder points out that if more GOP women crossed over than GOP men, that might undermine the Rush surge theory.
But regardless of the rationale, the GOP drift toward Clinton undermines Obama’s self-cultivated reputation as a uniter. Obama says he wants to create “Obama Republicans” in the mold of “Reagan Democrats”—but it’s Clinton Republicans ( like Ann Coulter ) who appear to have made the difference in Texas. (Clinton won about 119,000 Republican votes there, and she beat Obama by 101,000.) That said, Obama has retained his lead among independents.
There’s no way to conclusively measure the Limbaugh factor in the last few contests, but here’s a tip for Pennsylvania: Exit pollsters should ask Republicans whether Rush Limbaugh influenced their decision. Seriously. Barring that, they should at least ask GOP Hillary supporters what they think of her.