Sen. Thad Cochran (R-MS) won a hotly contested primary run-off election Tuesday against tea party challenger State Sen. Chris McDaniel, and the conservative entertainment complex is pissed. Glenn Beck actually fired a rifle on his show to illustrate his disgust. Sarah Palin threatened to leave the Republican Party. Laura Ingraham accused Cochran of “race-baiting.” McDaniel himself refused to concede. But the most ironic, racially-charged and whiny reaction came from Rush Limbaugh.
We’ll swing back to Limbaugh’s remarks presently, but it turns out that Cochran won due to a not insignificant number of African-Americans and Democrats voting for the GOP incumbent in the open primary, ostensibly because Cochran convinced them they probably don’t want an extreme tea party candidate walking away with Cochran’s Senate seat. It bears repeating that it was an open primary, which means it’s perfectly legal to vote in any primary irrespective of party.
FiveThirtyEight confirmed that by courting Democrats and African-Americans, Cochran was able to boost his turnout numbers just enough to top McDaniel, 51 percent to 49 percent.
About 375,000 voters showed up Tuesday compared with 318,904 on June 3, an increase of more than 17 percent. Cochran raised his vote total by more than 38,000 votes, while McDaniel pulled in only an additional 30,000. That was more than enough to erase McDaniel’s 1,386 vote lead in the first round.
Cochran’s campaign explicitly tried to increase his turnout in the runoff by bringing Democratic-leaning African-Americans to the polls. […] we have county-level results to go on, and that data suggests that traditionally Democratic voters provided Cochran with his margin of victory.
And now the right-wing freakout kind of makes sense. It was the blacks! Or “the black Uncle Tom voters,” as Rush Limbaugh said on his Wednesday show. Yes, more than anyone else, Limbaugh was spitting angry about Cochran squeaking out a victory with the help of “Uncle Toms for Thad.” Limbaugh went on to describe how African-Americans gave Cochran “a corrupt and undeserved victory.”
So the Washington establishment, both parties, distribute a flyer claiming the tea party wanted to prevent blacks from voting on Tuesday. This, combined with other efforts, secured a turnout of black Democrat voters in a Republican primary that gave Thad Cochran, in my view, a corrupt and undeserved victory.
Oh, boo-hoo. It’s politics, and guess what? Not only is it perfectly legal for Democrats to vote Republican in an open primary and vice versa, but it was Rush Limbaugh who popularized this very thing during the 2008 Democratic presidential primaries.
I’m old enough to remember something called “Operation Chaos.”
After Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) was a lock for the GOP nomination, Limbaugh launched a daily broadcast effort to flummox then-Sen. Barack Obama’s campaign because, he said, he wanted a “bloodied” Democratic nominee to face McCain in the general election. So he decided it would be most-excellent if Republican voters in open primaries cast their ballots for Obama’s opponent Hillary Clinton.
Here’s Limbaugh on Fox News Channel describing his plan to Laura Ingraham back in February, 2008:
Texas is open. And I want Hillary to stay in this, Laura. This is too good a soap opera. We need Barack Obama bloodied up politically, and it’s obvious that the Republicans are not going to do it and don’t have the stomach for it.
As you probably know, we’re getting all kinds of memos from the RNC saying not to be critical there. Mark MacKinnon of McCain’s campaign says he’ll quit if they get critical over Obama.
This is the presidency of the United States you’re talking about. I want our party to win. I want the Democrats to lose. They’re in the midst of tearing themselves apart right now. It is fascinating to watch, and it’s all going to stop if Hillary loses.
So yes, I’m asking to cross over and, if they can stomach it — I know it’s a difficult thing to do to vote for a Clinton — but it will sustain this soap opera, and it’s something I think we need. It would be fun, too.
In a few primaries Operation Chaos actually worked. Here’s what The Huffington Post reported about the results of the open primary in, wait for it, Mississippi — home of Thad Cochran and his “Uncle Toms”:
Obama’s victory would have been even more overwhelming in Mississippi (and he might have won the popular vote in Texas) if not for the “Limbaugh effect”: Republicans voting in the Democratic primary in order to undermine Barack Obama and help John McCain.
Approximately 25% of Clinton’s voters in Mississippi were Republicans voting for a candidate they hate in order to try to undermine Barack Obama. Obama’s 61-37 margin of victory in Mississippi would have been around 70-30 without Clinton’s Republican voters, and Obama would have easily expanded his delegate win there from 19-14 to 24-9.
What a surprise that this Operation Chaos might blow back against Limbaugh and his people. It’s symptomatic of a party that only seems to pursue short-term while risking long term repercussions. Time and time again, the GOP has engaged in tactics that could easily bite the Republicans in the ass sometime in the not-too-distant future.
In fact, they’re doing it right now with the ridiculous lawsuit against President Obama over his use of Executive Orders. In other circumstances, they’ve exponentially increased the number of filibusters to historic highs. There’s also the serial brinksmanship with the debt limit. They’ve even tossed defunding of the entire executive branch onto the table for future Democrats to pick up and exploit. These are all kneejerk tactical blunders, each one destined to haunt them for years to come.
As for Limbaugh, the inventor of Operation Chaos, he can feel free to shut the hell up now.