Primary Politics and the Art of Crossing Over

“It’s probably a stretch to call it a crossover vote. This is a unique situation. The circus is in town, and people want to go. This provides them an opportunity. But when the circus leaves town, we’ll have six months of opportunities to contrast their candidate with ours.”  Murray Clark, State Democrat Party Chairman for Indiana, to the New York Times.

You would think election ethics had been breached on every level.   The United States Supreme Court upholds Indiana’s voter identification law with a 6-3 so-called “squeaker” vote and then the “Grey Old Lady” laments “Republicans Crossing Over to Vote in Democratic Contests.” Let’s set the record straight.

Roughly half of the states (and all the states make their own rules for voting) are open or semi-open primaries which mean you don’t have to declare a party ahead of time. When you add in the states that allow you to register or change your registration with in a certain time period before the primary or caucus, then virtually all states allow people to vote in the “other” party’s primary or caucus.

Like it or not, they lure to some independent voters as well as the wishy-washy party voter.  I hate to say it, but more often than not, that wishy-washy voter is a woman of some age and they make a difference in the outcome of primaries and elections.  
Remember the Soccer Moms of 1996?  Even in these primary contests there are wishy-washy voters.

In the same New York Times article, Becky Kapalis from Carmel, Indiana said, “I would probably not vote, or maybe look at a third party. I respect McCain for what he’s done, his patriotism and devotion,” Ms. Kapsalis said, “but I just don’t think he has the heart to lead us, and he doesn’t speak to my heart the way this Barack Obama man does.” Geez! I am not worried about cross over voting.  But people who vote according to who is speaking to her heart scare the liver out of me. 

For the matter at hand, Democrats and their accomplices in the media, like Chris “I felt this thrill going up my leg” Matthews, only believe cross over voting is okay if it disrupts the Republicans’ ability to be Republicans .  It’s the traditional media that has been touting Sen. John McCain’s appeal to independents and implying that he won’t need those pesky conservatives to win because he has the love of independents and, (gasp!) some Democrats.  In fact, in the primaries and caucuses until John McCain was the presumptive nominee, there was indeed cross over voting.   They picked our nominee, so why can’t we pick theirs?

It is not so much that the “mainstreams” and the Democrats don’t want to admit cross over voting, it is that they don’t want to admit that their might be a little mischief involved.
Mr. Clark of the Indiana Democrat Party admits there’s been a heightened interest in the process of switching over to vote in the Democrat Primary on Tuesday over the last two months, but he or the “mainstreams” are afraid to give any credit to Rush Limbaugh’s Operation Chaos.  Limbaugh purposes to keep the Democrat contest going as long as possible so Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Obama will stay engaged in the destruction of each other until the convention. Of course, when asked, Republicans say they are not switching because of Operation Chaos, but why would they?  Some have put the influence of the Limbaugh project at 10% and some have put it at a lower number of around 2.5%.  Either way, in close primaries, it makes a difference.

Regardless of the outcome of the primary season, the question is regarding what will these folks do in the general election?  Virtually no people voting in Republican primaries and caucuses will “cross over” to vote for a Barack Obama or a Hillary Clinton in a general contest.  However, the numbers are much less secure for the Democrats.  Because of the age of the voters and the length of the contest, as many as 25% of Obama supporters won’t vote for Clinton in the general election.  The number is lower for Clinton supporters voting for Obama in the general election.

In the end, not much will change with the process.  With all the media coverage, I predict we will have the same arguments about schedules in 2012 and there will still be a majority of states that will let you change your mind on what primary to vote in with very few obstacles in your way.  We like it messy.  As much as most of us complained about the early and long nature of this primary contest, there are more people involved in the process than ever before and that’s a good thing for Republicans. 

When the conventions are over and we have to decide between Sen. John McCain and the nominee of the Democrat Party, McCain should have the edge in November even if he doesn’t send a thrill up Chris Matthews’s leg or speaks to the heart of Mrs. Kapalis but there is lots of work to do between now and then.