Hillary Clinton eked out a narrow victory over Barack Obama in the Indiana Democratic primary, but top Obama aides say Obama would have won if it were not for conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh.
David Axelrod, Obama’s top strategist, told reporters that he attributed Clinton’s lead in Indiana to Limbaugh’s “Operation Chaos” — his campaign to have Republicans cross over and vote for Clinton to prolong the nomination fight and damage the Democratic nominee.
Exit polls appear to back up Axelrod’s claims. Results of the Indiana exit poll found that that 17 percent of primary voters said they would vote for Republican John McCain over Clinton in the general election. And 41 percent of those voters still cast a vote for Hillary in the primary, according to the Baltimore Sun.
Citing these figures, the Obama campaign sent an e-mail to reporters Tuesday night asserting that 7 percent of the votes in Indiana could be attributed to the “Limbaugh effect.”
Clinton won the primary by about two percentage points — 23,000 votes out of 1.2 million cast.
Indiana’s primary was open to Republicans and independents as well as Democrats. In North Carolina, where registered Republicans could not vote in the Democratic primary, Obama won handily on Tuesday, 56 percent to 42 percent.
As the polls were closing in Indiana on Tuesday night, the Indianapolis Star reported that it appeared droves of “hardcore” Republicans were crossing over to vote in the Democratic primary in several GOP strongholds.
John K. Wilson wrote on The Huffington Post that the “Limbaugh effect” “easily provided enough votes to give Clinton her 23,000-vote margin of victory in Indiana.”
He said exit polls also indicated that among the 11 percent of Democratic primary voters in Indiana who said they had voted Republican in the past, Clinton beat Obama by eight percentage points. And among the 16 percent of voters who described themselves as conservative, 65 percent supported Clinton.
Limbaugh declared Operation Chaos a success in Indiana. He told the San Francisco Chronicle on Tuesday night: “I’m extremely proud of the Operation Chaos volunteers. I never doubted they would triumph in Indiana and I think it is a hoot the Obama campaign is crediting Op Chaos for giving Hillary a seven-point bump. It sounds like they are jealous I out-organized them . . .
“I said on the air that if the Obama campaign wanted to end Operation Chaos, all they had to do was acknowledge it and say that the Hillary vote was tainted by voters who have no intention of voting for her in November. Tonight, they followed my advice.”
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