Hillary Clinton's ‘Victory’ in Pennsylvania: The Rush Limbaugh Effect

What if Democratic voters and the uncommitted super-delegates come to learn that Rush Limbaugh had a greater impact on Hillary Clinton’s victory in Pennsylvania, and maybe Texas and Ohio, than say, the Reverend Wright, and the so-called ‘bitter’ comments? Would such a finding influence how voters view the Pennsylvania ‘victory?’

If my thesis is correct, you have to ask yourself why so many Republicans want Hillary Clinton to run against John McCain in November.

Here is what we know: Approximately 160,000 Pennsylvania Republicans, Independents and/or new voters registered as Democrats in the months preceding the April 22 Primary. Media reports widely credit the tanking economy, health care crisis, and war in Iraq for Republican disillusionment. But wait—let’s look at those very impressive numbers a little closer and compare the re-registration data to say, California. Pennsylvania is the home of approximately 12 million residents while California is the home of almost 38 million residents, over three times the size of Pennsylvania. So we might expect the California re-registration figures to climb to about three times the number of Pennsylvania’s re-registrants.

But that isn’t the case.

At 170,000 new Democrats, California, the most populous state, and arguably the state widely considered as being the most likely to hop on the latest bandwagon, roughly approximated the Pennsylvania experience, prior to its Primary election on Super Tuesday.

Something’s not right.

In the weeks between Super Tuesday and April 22, the date of the Pennsylvania Primary, the circular firing squad occurring between the two Democratic campaigns increased both Democratic candidates’ unfavorability ratings, while McCain began to win against both candidates in hypothetical match-up polls, for the first time. If distressed Republicans wanted to bail out of their Party, common sense suggests that they’d have been much more likely to do so after McCain locked up the GOP nomination but before Clinton and Obama began to engage in the 24/7 mud wrestling match leading up to the Pennsylvania campaign.

I’ve worn a lot of hats in my life, one of which was to serve as a Democratic strategist for congressional and statewide campaigns, and the other, as the Democratic Party’s Voter Registration Chair for the most evenly split county in the nine county San Francisco Bay Area. I have conducted over 100 voter registration events in front of area Target stores, Farmers’ Markets, at the mall, in schools and colleges and at area train stations in the last several years. I have talked to voters of every age, color, religion, socio-economic class, and gender. I have observed one common characteristic of authentically disillusioned Republicans.

They share with me that they are torn about their decision to register out of the Party of their parents. Almost reverently, they talk about the Republican Party they grew up with, and often articulate a concern that their family not learn about their defection. And in almost all cases, and I’ve helped hundreds of voters re-register--they leave their Grand Old Party by first going to Decline to State
and then, after placing their newly liberated toes in the water by voting Democratic several cycles in a rowthey take the plunge and re-register Democratic.

Very few Republicans boldly go all the way to Democratic in one fell swoop if they are serious about their voting.

I looked for answers. Like most people who’ve been paid to deliver Democratic strategy, I’ve mostly ignored self-important Rush Limbaugh’s claims that his Operation Chaos is responsible for the large number of re-registrants voting for Hillary in the last several contests. Because I’ve worked with voters for 8 years and I know first-hand just how difficult it is to get voters to change their parties. But then it hit me when I compared the Pennsylvania numbers to California’s. The voters I was dealing with for 8 years were saying good-bye to something that meant something. I sensed sadness, betrayal almost, as I stood by, clipboard in hand, helping voters leave the party of their parents. I have often compared this transition to the changing of one’s religion
it is that difficult when authentically done.

And that’s the key. I believe that Rush’s Operation Chaos is at play here and authenticity has nothing to do with too may new Democratic registrants in the last contests. This re-registration is, I believe, being undertaken at Rush’s suggestion to cynically stretch this contest out—as long as possible—so that Hillary’s promised kitchen sink theory—will end up driving both candidates’ negatives through the roof so that neither is likely to win against McCain.

Voters in upcoming contests will always be swayed by the outcome of preceding contests. It’s human nature to be influenced by the wisdom of those who’ve gone before us. But if I’m right
and the outcome in Pennsylvania, and perhaps Mississippi, Texas, and Ohio were influenced by Rush’s call to Republicans to keep Hillary in the race longerDemocratic voters in Indiana and North Carolina, and the states that follow, deserve to know that we’re being manipulated.

Related article: Why Rush Limbaugh thinks this site is 'unfriendly'


Guest contributor Terry Leach is a health policy consultant, writer, and attorney who has spent years providing strategy to Democratic political campaigns and causes, including stem cell research and access to primary care for the uninsured. An award winning author with an MFA, Terry writes for The Huffington Post and has been published in the Oregonian and the San Francisco Chronicle.