Republicans may have voted strategically for Senator Hillary Clinton in last night's Indiana primary, her aides acknowledged on Wednesday, but the so called "Limbaugh effect," they claimed, was politically marginal.
An analysis of exit polls from last night's election showed that nearly seven percent of all Clinton supporters said they would defect to John McCain in a general election match-up between the New York Democrat and the Arizona Republican. By contrast, only 2.28 percent of Sen. Barack Obama's supporters said they would defect to McCain if Obama were to face him in the fall.
The Obama campaign has suggested that this tally was responsible for pushing Clinton to her 1.8-point victory in Indiana. But Howard Wolfson, the campaign's chief spokesman, denied any correlation.
"The difference between seven and 2.28 is not statistically significant," he emailed The Huffington Post. However, Wolfson also cited a piece from The Atlantic's Marc Ambinder, which suggested strategic Republican voting could have pushed Clinton to her Indiana victory.
"Clinton won Republicans (11% of the electorate) by 52% to 46%," Ambinder wrote. "As noted on NBC News, 58% of Republicans believe that Barack Obama would be a tougher candidate to beat in the fall. That suggests that there was some strategic voting by Republicans... but not a heck of a lot. Although... maybe enough to provide the margin of victory."
On Wednesday, David Plouffe, Obama's campaign manager, cited Limbaugh as "a clear factor in the outcome" of Indiana. Sen. John Kerry, meanwhile, said that "if it hadn't been for Republicans taken Democratic ballots," Obama would have won the state.
"Rush Limbaugh was tampering with the primary," Kerry, who has endorsed Obama, declared, "and the GOP has declared that they want Sen. Clinton as a candidate."