The campaign of Barack Obama (D-IL) thinks it could have scored a double victory this week, taking Indiana along with North Carolina in its face-off with Hillary Clinton (D-NY), were it not for Republicans voting in the Democratic primary at the urging of radio icon Rush Limbaugh. The Obama campaign reportedly is saying that as much as a 7% tilt may be attributable to Limbaugh’s Operation Chaos.
Limbaugh said the purpose of the Operation was not to support Clinton, but to drag out the battle between her and Obama, and he believes that in fact Obama is the weaker candidate. However, Limbaugh was also critical of the Republicans and their timidity. He said, “The Republican Party hasn’t the guts to do Operation Chaos. Were there no Operation Chaos, the Republican Party would not have a plan. But I am not affiliated with the Republican Party here…”
There is some evidence to back up the claim that Operation Chaos had an effect. 10% of the ballots cast in the Indiana Democratic primary came from Republicans, with the edge going to Clinton – despite the fact that Obama had been winning crossover votes by a wide margin prior to Operation Chaos. Also, most Republican backers of Obama said he would also get their vote in November, while about 60% of Clinton’s supporters said they were going with John McCain (R-AZ) in the general election.
RBR/TVBR observation: Does Rush have an effect on the electorate? You bet. The question is who actually derives the most benefit from Limbaugh’s gravitational pull. His core audience is not likely to spend very many votes on any Democrats, anywhere. That is not to say he can’t have a positive effect for Republicans with this group – if he gets them to actually show up to the polls, that is a big plus. But he’s also been known to push undecided voters off the fence in the wrong direction – just ask Clair McCaskill (D-MO), who credits a Limbaugh backlash after his parody of Parkinson’s victim Michael J. Fox as being a major element in her eyelash victory.