Many GOP Leaders Lament Open Primaries

Image: Many GOP Leaders Lament Open Primaries Supporters of U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Miss, celebrate during his 'Victory Party' after Cochran held on to his seat after a narrow victory over Chris McDaniel at the Mississippi Childrens Museum. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Thursday, 07 Aug 2014 09:27 AM

By Melissa Clyne

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Many Republican leaders are steamed about Sen. Thad Cochran winning re-election by capitalizing on Mississippi’s open primary, which permits voters of any political party to vote in its primary, according to The Washington Times.

Cochran, a six-term establishment Republican, narrowly defeated tea party candidate Chris McDaniel in the June 24 runoff after McDaniel bested Cochran in the primary by 1,400 votes, ABC News reported at the time.

"The Mississippi primary shows what can happen when you have an open primary," Alabama GOP Chairman Bill Armistead told the Times. "Most often it is for mischief. The Democrats who vote in our primary either want to support the weaker candidate so they will have a better shot at winning in the general election, or they have been coerced into voting in our party’s primary to elect a candidate more closely aligned with their party’s views and philosophy."

The issue of open primaries has long been a subject of debate among the GOP, with those in opposition arguing that it allows Democrats to "support the weaker candidate so they will have a better shot at winning in the general election."

Cochran openly courted black Democrats, which according to the FiveThirtyEight website, pushed the incumbent to victory.

The strategy has angered conservatives who believe allowing anyone other than registered Republicans to participate in a primary is wrong. They argue that by opening primaries – as 27 states allow – it invites Democrats and others to help boost the more liberal conservative.

During a recent appearance on Fox News’ "Hannity," conservative talk show host Dennis Prager characterized open primaries as "an original sin … a way to destroy the parties," according to Breitbart. "All it does is invite mischief. I can vote in your primary or general primary to undo the guy I think will win."

At the Republican National Committee’s annual summer meeting taking place in Chicago this week, members of the GOP who disagree with open primaries said a party that permits them is a PPINIO or "political party in name only," according to the Times.

Former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour reminded the crowd that while staunch members of the party dislike them, "the public still prefers open primaries."

It is not the doing of state Republicans but rather state legislatures, which mandate open primaries or require no party registration, the Times reported, saying a recent Gallup poll that showed that just 25 percent of voters identify themselves as Republicans, 31 percent as Democrats and 42 percent as independents.

Additionally, Louisiana, Washington and California allow blanket primaries, sometimes referred to as jungle primaries, where voters may choose the party primary they want to vote in on an office-by-office basis.

Supporters, according to the Times, argue say this process favors "more centrist candidates in both parties over more ideological rivals."

RNC General Counsel John Ryder of Tennessee, who was in the minority, believes states have the right to choose how to conduct their primaries, Michigan RNC member Dave Agema, whose state allows open primaries, disagreed.

"A closed primary is necessary to prevent [Democrats] from nominating liberal candidates within our party." Agema said. "When I see candidates in Michigan advertising that Democrats can vote for them and cross over, it indicates that that candidate is weak and desires his re-election more than the principles of the RNC platform and the will of the Republicans in that district."

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