Did Limbaugh Push Clinton Over the Top in Texas?

Yesterday, James reported here that Rush Limbaugh was urging his Texas supporters to vote for Hillary Clinton to help weaken Obama and clear a path for an eventual McCain victory. Yesterday, James was pretty sure that this effort wouldn’t work. However, Dave Weigel has run the numbers and it looks like Rush may have been successful.

Go and check the exit polls. In Wisconsin, Republicans made up 9 percent of the Democratic primary vote. Obama won them 72-28 over Clinton. Just as tellingly, 14 percent of primary voters said they were “conservative,” and Obama won them 59-40, a bigger margin than he won with liberals or moderates. Tactical voters who said Obama stood a better chance of winning in November? They went for him 87-13.


It’s a similar story in Texas, where Limbaugh has the most listeners of any of these states. Obama won the Republican vote 52-47, but conservatives (22 percent of all voters, up from 15 percent in the Kerry-Edwards primary) went against Obama. For the first time since Super Tuesday, they were Clinton’s best ideological group: She won them 53-43. And Clinton won 13 percent of the people who said Obama was the most electable candidate.

Ohio didn’t wind up being very close, but Clinton won the Texas primary by about 98,000 votes out of 2.8 million cast. If the exits are right, about 252,000 of those voters were Republicans, and about 618,000 were conservatives. Clinton truly might have won the Texas primary on the backs of Rush Limbaugh listeners.

I think that it would take some number-running of more past open primaries than just Wisconsin to claim that Limbaugh made a difference in Texas, but there certainly does appear to be a strong prima facie case, especially when you compare this to the Texas caucus results, where Obama has a slight edge as of this writing. I can buy GOP crossovers to vote in the primary, but I doubt that too many of them would then go through the hassle of caucusing.

Texas Exit PollsUPDATE (James Joyner): Alex is right, of course, that we need comparative data to draw meaningful conclusions. But the exit polls that Dave has — as he acknowledges — Obama winning among self-described Republicans. We don’t know what the number would have been had Limbaugh not made his pronouncements, obviously, but the fact that a majority of the tiny minority of Republicans voting in the primary went the other way would seem to counter the “Limbaugh won it for Hillary” thesis.

And, yes, Clinton won among conservatives. But she won among ALL ideological demographics: 51% of the liberals, 50% of the moderates, and 52% of conservatives. Broken down further, she does her very best, with 58%, with those who say they’re “very conservative.” But why wouldn’t conservatives go for the more conservative of the two candidates?

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Alex Knapp
About Alex Knapp
Alex Knapp is Associate Editor at Forbes for science and games. He was a longtime blogger elsewhere before joining the OTB team in June 2005 and contributed some 700 posts through January 2013. Follow him on Twitter @TheAlexKnapp.


  1. markm says:
  2. Patrick T. McGuire says:

    If it wasn’t Rush’s influence, then McCain is in deep doo-dah because it means that a large number of conservatives voted for someone other than the Republican candidates.

    I wonder if McCain is paying attention?

  3. Luis de Souza says:

    Shouldn’t this be an alarm to the superdelegates that Clinton’s victory in TX may partially be sabotage? I am not disputing that she could’ve pulled off 48% on her own and indeed the party is in deep divided kimshi. But all of that aside I think it’s pretty clear who Rush, McCain, and all GOP is really scared of to be president!

  4. SoloD says:

    I can’t help but think of the tale “The Monkey’s Paw” every time someone says to vote for the “worse” candidate in the other party’s primary.

    Now, I can understand why Limbaugh would want Hillary in the White House next January, but do you think most rank and file Republicans would prefer her over Obama?

  5. James Joyner says:

    McCain is in deep doo-dah because it means that a large number of conservatives voted for someone other than the Republican candidates.

    That’s hardly surprising. The Republican contest was a non-event. McCain was the all-but-certain nominee and Huckabee had no mathematical way of winning enough delegates.

  6. Patrick T. McGuire says:

    That’s hardly surprising. The Republican contest was a non-event.

    If that were true, then most Republicans would simply stay home rather than go through the inconvenience of standing in long lines to vote for a Democrat. They had to have some motivation to go to the polls.

    It was either Rush or it was a strong dislike for McCain.

  7. yetanotherjohn says:

    Rush wasn’t able to deliver for Romney, but he could for Clinton. An interesting theory of influence. Wisconsin republicans voted for Obama overwhelmingly while Texas voters slightly favored Clinton. But given that Wisconsin hasn’t voted for a Republican president since 1984 and Texas hasn’t voted for a democratic president since 1976, could it just possibly be that Wisconsin republicans and Texas republicans are not entirely fungible?

    As a Texan, I can tell you that in talking among conservatives, there is a strong debate as to which one is the weaker candidate. Obama has charisma, but he has paper thin experience, his supporters can’t seem to articulate any reason to support him besides that charisma and as his recent press conference shows he folds after 8 questions that aren’t fawning adulations about how wonderful he is. Clinton has high negatives, lots of baggage and is just plain unpleasant. Her experience seems primarily concerned with whose bed she shared (and even that fact is questionable). So even if you say all conservatives were voting strategically to wreck the democratic party, there was still a 53 to 43 split that they could decide which was the weaker candidate.

    2008 had all the hallmarks of being a democratic year, but by putting forward two old line liberals with very limited experience the democratic party is doing its best to lose the election.

  8. Election Volunteer says:

    At the voting site where I was working all day on Mar 4 in Texas, the Rush Limbaugh voters were out in great numbers and very vocal about it. In the precinct voting that I personally supervised, 181 people voted. Of that 181, 70 people were extremely vocal about voting once-and-once only for Hillary Clinton because Rush Limbaugh had told them to do it so that the democratic party would implode. Two-thirds of the voters made a point of asking if they voted democrat this one-time that they would still be able to vote republican in the fall because that was their intention. We saw similar questions and comments in all the precincts.

    Anyone who thinks Hillary Clinton won Texas on merit and thinks Hillary Clinton can win Texas in November is very very naive. Rush Limbaugh won Texas. Who lost……….America.

  9. yetanotherjohn says:

    I will certainly grant you that neither Obama nor Clinton will win Texas in November.

  10. Len says:

    I will certainly grant you that neither Obama nor Clinton will win Texas in November.

    With John Sidney McCain III as the Republican candidate, I’d almost be willing to take that bet. I guarantee that Senator McCain is not a popular man here in Texas. He never has been. The Baptists don’t like his adulterous past and everybody else disagrees with him on everything from campaign finance to immigration.

    There is a reason only 1,319,960 people voted in the Republican primary yesterday (compared to 2,812,289 in the Democratic primary) and only 51% of those voted for McCain, and it sure as heck was not Rush Limbaugh. (Though I am sure the fat blow-hard would like to think so.)

  11. Tlaloc says:

    You got to keep in mind that you are talking about statistical data here. As the sampling shrinks the margin of error balloons rapidly.
    In the CNN exit polls they talked to 2048 people. Of those republicans were 9% which means less than 200 people. Conservatives were 22% or 450 people. Trying to infer that a 7 or 13% split difference taken from a sample size of only a couple hundred is meaningful is dubious.

    The exit poll data is really only worthwhile when talking about groups that make up a significant chunk of the polled, otherwise the sampling just goes out the window.

  12. Wayne says:

    I suspect that Rush was why Texas went Clinton. It would only take a small change in percentage to make a difference. The reason Rush did it was to promote a bloody Dem primary fight. I have to go against Rush on this one. One shouldn’t be trying to sabotage the other party primary regardless of the party. To cross party lines is o.k. if you plan to vote for that candidate in the fall but to do it malicious intent is wrong.
    Yes I know the Dems do it but it still doesn’t make it right.

  13. markm says:

    “Now, I can understand why Limbaugh would want Hillary in the White House next January, but do you think most rank and file Republicans would prefer her over Obama?”

    Limbaugh doesn’t want either in the big seat. What he was asking was for repubs to vote for Hillary to keep the fight going for another 7 weeks. It gives more time for Hillary to “bloody up” Obama. Find a chink in the armour. It’s not about getting Hillary elected.

  14. yetanotherjohn says:


    Do you really think that the reason so many more people voted in the democratic primary was because the republicans don’t like McCain? That seems more rational than the republican presidential primary was a don’t care?

    I think we have a certified case of MDS. And it is about as pretty to watch as BDS.

  15. Earl Smith says: