Obama Still Running Third among Republicans?

There’s been some hand-wringing among Democrats about the New Year’s Eve Des Moines Register poll, which showed Obama polling 32% of the vote with strong support from a surprising (and arguably unrealistic) number of Independents participating in the caucus. The WaPo did an entire article suggesting Obama may win the caucus because he’s got cross-over appeal.

The senator from Illinois received a jolt of momentum late New Year’s Eve, when the Des Moines Register’s final Iowa poll showed him leading Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.) by 32 percent to 25 percent, with former senator John Edwards (N.C.) at 24 percent. But just as striking were two findings that suggest Obama may be succeeding at one of the riskiest gambits of his Iowa campaign, an aggressive push to persuade non-Democrats to participate.

The survey found that more newcomers than regular participants could turn out on Thursday: Overall, 40 percent of likely Democratic caucusgoers identified themselves as independents, the poll said, double the percentage from 2004, and 60 percent said they would be attending a caucus for the first time. Both groups preferred Obama.


Chief Clinton strategist Mark Penn disputed the poll, calling the Register’s turnout model "unprecedented" and "out of sync with other polling done in the race," including several recent surveys that showed a statistical dead heat. Edwards spokesman Eric Schultz called the Register model "at odds with history."

And folks in left blogtopia (h/t Skippy) now wonder whether, if Obama succeeds, it will constitute a sabotage of the Democratic process.

Perhaps it’s because I live in Michigan, where in 2000 a bunch of Democrats voted in the Republican primary to keep McCain in the Republican primary for another couple of days, and where the NRA played a significant role in giving John Dingell the win over Lynn Rivers in a heated 2002 might-as-well-be-the-General-election primary battle. But I’m not so bugged about Independents and even Republicans crossing over to vote in Iowa’s Democratic caucuses. In the case of Iowa, if they’re willing to give up what would be more significant input into the Republican nomination to vote for Obama, so be it.

I think there’s fairly compelling evidence that whatever Independents and Republicans caucus for Obama tomorrow night are casting a vote for Obama and not necessarily for chaos in the Democratic nomination. Recall, for example, the July-August poll that showed Obama polling third among Republicans.

In late July and early August, Iowa Republican voters were asked to name their choice for president in a University of Iowa poll. Mitt Romney, who leads most Iowa surveys, got 22 percent of the total. Rudy Giuliani came in second with 10 percent. But third place went to a Democrat, Barack Obama, who got nearly 7 percent — more than Mike Huckabee, John McCain and Sam Brownback combined.

Not to worry: The Obama campaign isn’t likely to join the Grand Old Party, and pollsters are convinced that Obama has exactly zero chance of winning the Republican caucus in Iowa. But something is going on. "I don’t want to make too much of it," says David Redlawsk, the professor who commissioned the poll. "But I do think that the message Obama is putting out right now is the most likely to reach across party lines."

The numbers from the Des Moines Register poll (showing 5% of likely Democratic caucus-goers to be Republicans) seem fairly realistic when matched against Obama’s 7% support among Republicans in August. And when you consider that, during the same time frame when Obama was polling third among Republicans, the leading GOP candidate was "none of the above." This is going to be a weird primary season, because there simply isn’t a GOP candidate who can carry off what Bush did in 2000, uniting (in however cosmetic a fashion) all the disparate ideologies among Republicans. Every single GOP candidate will, for some reason, offend an important Republican constituency. Which means  Republicans probably still largely prefer "none of the above" to anyone they’ve currently got running.  

That said, I’m not sure Obama’s efforts to go for Independents will succeed.  Penn and Schultz are right in saying the DMR poll defies all recent history. Obama’s depending on turning out youth, first-timers, and Independents to vote for him, which people often try to do in Iowa but few succeed, particularly not when caucus night looks like it’ll feature sub-zero wind chills.

But the whole Democratic primary (which may well go on for several weeks, given the three-way tie we’ve apparently got now) is going to be significantly impacted by the fact that a lot of people hate Republicans and even those who like Republicans in theory don’t like these Republicans.  

46 replies
  1. TheraP says:

    I just looked at the Iowa registration form. It is not necessary to designate a party affiliation and if a person leaves that space blank, the voter is registered as: “no party.” So new registrants could do that. And anyone else could reregister for that. (not sure about caucus rules, but it must be ok – so long as you only caucus once)

    In New Hampshire there is no party designation on the form. And people cross lines all the time to vote for whomever.

    Yes, it’s been obvious for some time that Obama is reaching out already across party lines.

    How many states allow voters to vote for either party, so long as they only vote for one?

    I think many people have been mentally playing all sorts of permutations and combinations of this. I know I have (in a state where voting is a bit later.)

  2. looseheadprop says:

    I find it offensive that members of one party can “game” the primary of another party. The whole point of a priamry is for the PARTY to pick it’s own candidate, not to have members of another party pick their candidate for them.

    In NYS, not only do you have to be registered to the party in question to vote in its primary, there is even a cut off date by which you must so register, in order to prevent just this kind of fraud.

    That being said, Obama will get some ink out of this if it really happens. Lots of ink. The who can win in the general election kinda ink.

    • emptywheel says:

      So that says that, in the world of gerrymandering, you can disenfranchise up to 40% of the electorate for some elections?

      And how do you determine whether someone is a member of a party or not? It varies from state to state, so it’s nearly impossible to read NYS’s rules onto everyone else (in MI, there is no party registration, just party membership, which would mean you had to be a very active party member to even vote if that’s the way you did it).

    • phred says:

      In a two party system a lot of us aren’t represented by either party, so why should we forfeit our say in who ends up in the general election? That seems more rigged to me than switch hitters disenfranchised by their “own” party.

  3. freepatriot says:

    third amongst the repuglitards and FIRST amongst the Democrats equals FIRST PLACE AMONGST AMERICANS

    doesn’t it ???

    so what’s the problem ???

    that IS the whole point of the process

  4. oldtree says:

    oh Iowa. their vote means one thing. cash out of pocket for candidates that have to pay for votes.
    pretty funny this sort of “democracy”
    voting means a paper ballot that is counted by humans. anything else is republican BS. You can’t win an election when you have 35% of the electorate unless you cheat.

    • emptywheel says:

      Well, my gripes with IA start with the fact that they disenfranchise those who work nights. How can the Democratic party continue to endorse an electoral system that leaves out a large number of working people?

      In fact, it’ll be interesting to see if that affects Huck’s turnout.

  5. PJEvans says:

    CA requires that you register with a party if you want to vote for any candidate – and you can only vote for the candidates of that party for partisan offices. If you don’t have a preference stated, all you get – or used to get – is the propositions and the non-partisan offices.

    • emptywheel says:

      Though of course, the propositions in CA make up like 2/3 of the ballot, right?


      I guess some of the underlying questions ought to be:

      1) how functional are our parties at meeting the needs of our country? If they’re not serving our needs, should we make them stronger or weaker?
      2) given the preponderance of two party states (NYS is an exception), does voting enforced by party serve to enfranchise a wide range of acceptable views?

      I kind of like having a lot of diversity of methods, so that we have a range of voices represented.

      And as someone who took on a leadership position in my local party after having been forced to join the party to make sure Dean got his delegates, there’s something to be said for making elections a way to get people involved.

    • where4art says:

      If you don’t have a preference stated, all you get – or used to get – is the propositions and the non-partisan offices.

      That’s what I thought, too; in fact, that’s why I registered as a Democrat years ago. But I just found out recently that “decline-to-state” voters in CA have the right to vote for candidates in the primary if the particular party allows it. From the voter’s pamphlet I just got:

      If you are not registered with a political party, upon request you can vote a ballot of any political party that has notified the Secretary of State that it will permit decline-to-state registered voters to help nominate their candidates. The following political parties are allowing voters who are not registered with a political party to request and vote their party’s ballot at the February 5, 2008 Presidential Primary Election:
      • American Independent Party
      • Democratic Party

      The key is specifically requesting the party’s ballot. Otherwise, decline-to-state voters are given ballots that include only nonpartisan offices and propositions.

      Interesting to see which parties think it’s advantageous to allow nonaffiliated voters to vote in their primaries, eh?

      • freepatriot says:

        decline to state ???

        I hate the “Decline to State” people

        but you’re right, the CAN vote in some parties (haven’t got the official list yet) but most of them don’t know it

        did I mention that I was a Precinct Inspector ???

        I could tell you stories …

      • freepatriot says:

        thanks for the recognition (which I barely deserve)

        I don’t own any stocks, and I don’t pay much attention to the Dow Jones, so that one is always gonna be on you

        and I got my big scoop from Chicken Noodle Network, so how much credit can I really claim ??? (I’m good at separating chaff from wheat, that’s all)

        It’s not like I’m Jerome or Bonddad, or something like that

        now I guess we get to spend a whole year watching george’s chickens coming home to roost

        maybe we could have a contest to predict how bad it can get

  6. SaltinWound says:

    It’s crazy to me that these people have so much power. It honestly makes me want to move to Iowa or New Hampshire. Speaking of disenfranchisement, is Michigan getting screwed this year, in terms of its primary, or is it its own fault? I don’t fully understand why such respect is paid to Iowa and New Hampshire (notwithstanding my desire to move there) and don’t really see what Michigan did wrong.

    • emptywheel says:

      It’s its own fault. Debbie Dingell and Carl Levin trying to be hardnosers, even after the DNC moved glacially to change.

      Right now, we’ve got 3 candidates on the Dem side of the ballot (Hillary, Dodd, and Kooch). I suspect Dodd will drop tomorrow after caucus returns come in, which leaves Kooch and Hillary. Much as I see good things to a Hillary candidacy, I refuse to let her walk away with a “win” bc she was the only leading candidate that didn’t withdraw.

      Question is, do I vote just for “undecided,” or do I fuck with the GOP vote, which has all major candidates on it and might be interesting, since one candidate on the ballot is the son of a popular MI governor? And who cares, anyway, bc we have had our delegates pulled for now. I just want to go to nice parties in Denver in August. That’s my overriding concern.

      • bmaz says:

        Screw the Republicans. I still have a nose for happening parties, especially out here in the west (knew that time in graduate school in Boulder would come in useful sooner or later), so we can make sure you still get hooked up in Denver….

            • emptywheel says:

              I doubt I can afford them. Or pronounce them. So I’m at little risk for them.

              Though probably someone will ask me to wear shoes that aren’t Keen sandals, which will still mean a trip to the shoe store.

                  • Hugh says:

                    Oh, see, that’s not one of the five languages I speak, nor is it in the list of those I’d like to learn to speak. So I’ll have to forgo.

                    Well I’m interested. What are the 5 languages?

                    • emptywheel says:

                      In varying degrees of rustiness: French, Spanish, Portuguese, Czech. And the bastardized form of English I’m currently writing in.

                      And I know 12 words in mandarin, only two of them having to do with beer.

              • freepatriot says:

                someone will ask me to wear shoes that aren’t Keen sandals, which will still mean a trip to the shoe store.

                you sound really excited about going shoe shopping

                my dog has more enthusiasm for a trip to the vet

                here’s a tip, to help you out:

                ever seen the movie “Bull Durham” ???

                here’s an analogy for you

                you’ve won 20 in the “Show”, and now you can let the fungus grow on your shower shoes and be considered “colorful”, instead of being a slob

                you’re a star now

                wear what you want

                people will be surprised that you WEAR shoes, so it don’t matter what they look like (flip flops officially count as shoes everywhere but Court)

                you’ll be a fashion setter an shit …

                then, my tan lined feet will be fashionable for a little while …

                yeah, that’s the ticket

                • emptywheel says:

                  Got ‘em already. I might just wear my orange DKos shoes–they’re always appropriate for festive gatherings. I’m sure there’s a picture of them somewhere on these tubes.

    • freepatriot says:

      The propositions here in California are absolute madness. Another reason to move

      the weather in Iowa and New Hampshire, another reason to stay in Cali

  7. bmaz says:

    Crap, this country is turning me into a premature old curmudgeon. I have to say that, as a Democrat, I am absolutely thrilled at the prospect of the third most popular Republican being my party’s standard bearer. Not. Oh, and one more thing as long as I am on a roll of nastiness, I am fucking sick of hearing how Obama “got it right on the war”. In the first place, Obama didn’t actually have the weight of voting for or against the Iraq war on his shoulders; and if history is any guide, if he did, he would have bailed out and not been present for said vote. Pat Buchanan was strongly against the Iraq war since before it started too, and he is also a middle pack Republican favorite, should Pat Buchanan be the Democratic nominee? The political discourse in this country is simply insipid.

    • emptywheel says:

      He was facing a tough primary anyway, but having watched a good (35-year old) friend die of esophageal cancer, Lantos is probably well-advised to spend some time with his family and try to beat the terrible odds on that kind of cancer.

          • phred says:

            Dang it — did I spell Crocs wrong??? Rats, for a second there I thought I had done a good job passing for having some fashion knowledge. [cursing and muttering under my breath in my flannel shirt, jeans, and nondescript hiking boots that are very well suited to the ice and snow thank you very much… harumph…]

  8. masaccio says:

    So, speaking of Laboutins, here is one of my favorite factoids. Take a look at this Portrait of Louis XIV. Note the shoes, the red heels. Louis loved red in his shoes. All Laboutins have red soles, and I understand it is an homage to Louis.

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