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Now, about that Texas GOP surprise for Hillary Clinton

March 8, 2008 |  9:44 am

One week ago at about this time of day we posted an item here headlined: "Do Texas Republicans plan a surprise for Clinton and Obama?"

It speculated on the possibility of Republican voters in the Lone Star state, faced with an uninteresting, essentially-decided contest between John McCain and Mike Huckabee, crossing over to make mischief in the Democratic primary by voting for Hillary Clinton to prolong the Democrats' damaging intra-party struggle for several more weeks. We'd heard rumors about this and the Dallas Morning News had written about the possibility.

Then, on his Monday broadcast, conservative talk-show host Rush Limbaugh with his national audience of some 13 million aggressively pushed the idea to his listeners in Texas. Bill O'Reilly, among others, also talked about the possibility on his national radio program, but did not advocate such tactics.

By now, some of you may have heard, that Clinton did pull off....

a popular vote win over Barack Obama in Texas which, combined with her wins in Rhode Island and Ohio, revived her campaign and fundraising and made Pennsylvania's primary on April 22 the newest of many days of decisive decision for Democrats, while McCain clinched his nomination and moved on to begin organizing nationally.

Now, Susan Davis over at the Wall Street Journal's Washington Wire has found evidence among some Democrats of possibly enough GOP hijinks to make a difference in Texas. Only 9% of voters in the Democratic primary there were Republican and Obama, as he has elsewhere, drew more of them than Clinton.

But in Texas the margin was much closer than it had been in other states. It was 53% for Obama and 46% for Clinton in Texas, but as recently as Wisconsin it was 72% Obama to 28% for Clinton and in Virginia 72% to 23%.

Davis also interviewed one precinct worker who personally tracked dozens of participants in the Democratic balloting who proudly identified themselves as Limbaugh voters, Republicans crossing over.

Clinton won the Texas vote with 50.9%, compared to 47.4% for Obama, or roughly a 100,000-vote difference. Was the Republican vote the margin of Clinton's victory? Hard to say, but it certainly added to her margin in what was a huge psychological boost, even though under Texas' cockamamie primary/caucus system Obama may actually end up with more convention delegates. 

It's not so much that the conservative broadcasters tried to help McCain, whom they have their own doubts about, as it is to force Democrats to fight each other longer, using up valuable resources, energies and precious days of general election planning while perhaps engendering harder feelings among the eventual losing side.

As the Republicans for Obama website complained, "Hillary Clinton owes her political life to Rush Limbaugh."

But under the category of "be very careful what you wish for":

Wouldn't it be a stunning historical irony if Clinton, who's worked hard to adhere closer to the all-important general election political center than Obama, won the nomination in August and the election in November, all thanks to this vast right-wing conspiracy that briefly swallowed its hate of her in March to save her bacon in Texas?

-- Andrew Malcolm