Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Republicans for Obama?

Crossovers We All Have to Bear

I saw an interesting article today on National Review Online about Republicans who have been voting in Democratic primaries. The article said that, based on exit polling, most self-described Republicans were voting for Senator Barack Obama. Here is a quote concerning Virginia’s February 12, 2008 primary:

Virginia’s open primary on February 12 was the next test. There Republicans made up 7 percent of Democratic primary voters, and they overwhelmingly favored Obama, 72 percent to 23 percent. The 22 percent of voters who were independents weren’t far behind, at 69 percent for Obama and 30 percent for Clinton. Virginia Democrats were a bit less enthusiastic, at 62 percent to 38 percent. But the strongest Obama vote came from the 12 percent who called themselves conservatives, a group drawing members from all three party categories. They voted 73 percent to 24 percent for Obama.

In Texas, despite the exhortations of Rush Limbaugh, most Republicans who voted in the Democratic primary still went for Obama, though not by as great a margin as in other States.

Interestingly, there was this article last week in the Washington Times about how Obama was more likely to drive Democrats to vote for John McCain in the general election.

And contrary to conventional wisdom, numbers emerging from polls and primary results show that Sen. John McCain — who has alienated conservatives as he courts independents and moderate Democrats — holds an advantage over Sen. Barack Obama in the race for crossover votes.

There are now more McCainocrats than Obamacans — about 14 percent of Democrats say they would vote for Mr. McCain today instead of Mr. Obama, but just 8 percent of Republicans say they would vote for the Illinois Democrat, according to a Pew Research Center survey on Feb. 28.

Additionally, 20 percent of white Democratic voters say they would defect to Mr. McCain if Mr. Obama is the Democratic Party's nominee — twice the number who would cross over if Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton wins the nomination, Pew found.

This raises interesting questions: Are those Republicans crossing over in the Dem primaries voting for Obama because they are anti-war, or because they perceive Obama to be the weakest Democrat? Many of the antiwar Republicans were voting for Ron Paul, but maybe some viewed Paul as an unviable candidate and placed their votes where they thought they would do the most good. Then again, Obama has been classified as the most liberal member of the U.S. Senate, so you wonder if he is a lot weaker than he is currently perceived.

Now Senator Clinton may not lose as many crossover votes to McCain, or so the polls say. However, given the state of the Democratic primary race, if Clinton manages to “steal” the nomination from Obama (based on getting a lot of Superdelegates, or getting pledged Obama delegates to abandon him), this could tick off a lot of the base, and especially black voters. Some may get sick and tired of being taken for granted and vote for McCain. The crossover potential should Clinton win the Democratic nomination (and especially if Obama is not her running mate) may be understated in the polls.

Now I realize the “crossover” analysis has been grossly simplified here. However, readers are welcome to share other dynamics here.