Anybody who believes Rush Limbaugh's idiotic gas bag boast that he tilted elections in Texas, Ohio, Pennsylvania and now Indiana to Hillary Clinton deserves the word that Al Franken used a few years ago in the title to his best selling book to describe Limbaugh.
Limbaugh's Operation Chaos is the latest in the endless stream of dime store promotional gimmicks Limbaugh has used to hype his up and down show ratings, maintain his spot as king of the yak radio circuit, and puff up his Grand Canyon size ego.
The facts in the Texas, Ohio and Pennsylvania primaries, of course, refute Limbaugh's hogwash claim. The polls consistently showed that Clinton would likely score a single to double digit win over Obama in these three states. Her core base of supporters, Latinos, rural and blue collar whites, and Reagan Democrats were solidly behind her. In Ohio she got an eleventh hour boost from an alleged memo that painted Obama as waffling on his opposition to NAFTA. That's a red flag issue to economically strapped Ohio workers.
In Pennsylvania nearly 2 million registered Democrats voted. Exit polls showed that out of that number roughly 100,000 voters or 5 percent of the overall number claimed that they changed their registration from Republican to Democrat. An equally small percentage of the Democratic voters said they were new voters or had no party affiliation before the primary. In any case, exit polls showed that the new voters, suspect Democrats or not, backed Obama, not Clinton, by a wide margin, and those that were openly admitted Republicans and that voted as Democrats split evenly down the middle between Obama and Clinton.
The number of new, and unaffiliated voters, and those that claimed to be ex-Republicans at least for the primary was simply too small to seriously say that they made a difference in Clinton's win, especially given the gaping margin that she beat Obama by in the state.
Now there's Indiana. Few paid much attention to Limbaugh's absurd blather about Operation Chaos before Obama lost the state by a narrow 14,000 votes. And even then Limbaugh's stunt might have been laughed off as another of the gas bag's ratings grab, that is until Obama backer, Massachusetts Senator John Kerry, and some Team Obama staffers bought into his taunt and cried foul. And since Indiana is an open primary state, Limbaugh's boast seemed plausible.
But as always, facts have an irritating way of spoiling a good yarn, or in this case, a hokey claim. Even if we take the word of the roughly ten percent of the Democratic voters in Indiana who claimed they were Republicans, the percentage that went for Clinton was less than ten percent.
That hardly represents a Republican stampede to Clinton. If there was any rush to a Democrat by Republicans anywhere it was to Obama. He got the greater percentage of alleged cross over Republicans in seven of eight states he won according to exit polls. And he got them before Limbaugh allegedly sat out to make mischief by propping up Clinton.
Clinton eked out her win over Obama in the state not with crossover Republican voters but by beating him with the Democrats that she beat him with in Ohio, Texas, Pennsylvania, and even North Carolina and that's blue collar white voters who are Democrats and vote Democratic. In Indiana Obama's anchor voter demographic, blacks and college educated younger voters, made up a smaller percentage of the vote than in North Carolina.
By dignifying anything that comes out of the mouth of talk radio's champion huckster, Kerry and Team Obama do a disservice to the success that Obama's retooled stump tactics had in making the Indiana race closer than it could have been. He barnstormed the state through small towns and rural areas and touted a quasi populist working fellow's pitch and softened his image as a regular guy in photo-op stops. This helped take the spotlight off of the Wright fiasco, and bury for the moment his verbal gaffes about guns and religion that Clinton and the GOP giddily waved in the face of Pennsylvania voters.
Limbaugh declared and says that he's shutting down Operation Chaos. Why not? He worked this latest con job to masterful perfection. He got a legion of talking heads actually giving serious credence to his screwy boast. He got a ratings bump up. He got some Democrats who should know better to pay perverse homage to his supposed political prowess. And he further bolstered his stock as the GOP's main man of the airwaves.
Not bad for the guy that Franken branded a big fat idiot. Kind of makes you wonder just who the idiot really was in all of this.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. His new book is The Ethnic Presidency: How Race Decides the Race to the White House (Middle Passage Press, February 2008).