The Limbaugh (Non) Effect

Much has been said about the role of Republicans in Indiana’s primary, where like in many other states, they were allowed to vote. Conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh had launched what he called “Operation Chaos” to urge his followers to vote for Clinton in order to draw out the primary and hope that the Democrats keep bloodying each other. The Obama camp leapt on this along with exit poll numbers showing that some Clinton voters preferred John McCain in a general election matchup as evidence that 7% of her support came from Republican strategic voting.

From what I could see in Indiana, I sincerely doubt it. It’s a majority GOP state, and wherever I went Republicans came to see Hillary Clinton, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama campaigning. I spoke to many of them in the crowds and not once did someone say they would vote in the primaries to help McCain. Rather they wanted to influence the outcome of the Democratic campaign in such a way as to ensure that if a Democrat wins the White House in November, it would be the one they preferred. Some told me they planned to vote for Clinton because she had more experience or because they perceived Obama as too liberal. Others said they would vote for Obama because they thought the Clintons were corrupt, or deceitful, or because they were impressed by Obama. Some of them told me they would vote for McCain in November. Others said they weren’t sure about McCain. Some said they would not vote for McCain because of his position on staying in Iraq.  I’m sure that some Republicans engaged in strategic voting, but I really doubt they were the majority. Hard to believe, I know, but a lot of people actually take this democracy business seriously.

Looking for more?

Get the Best of Maclean's sent straight to your inbox. Sign up for news, commentary and analysis.