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January 16, 2008

The Crossover Flop In Michigan

Before the Michigan primaries, many of us wondered whether the lack of a meaningful Democratic primary would create a flood of crossover votes into the Republican contest. Such a turnout could have boosted the performance of John McCain, who remains popular with independents and Democrats in that state and elsewhere. However, despite a campaign by Markos Moulitsas and others, the crossover vote turned out to be insignificant:

McCain captured 41 percent of Democrats who voted in the Republican primary, 10 points more than Romney. Mike Huckabee meanwhile, only captured 14 percent of Democrats.

Though the Democratic primary race was rendered essentially meaningless after party sanctions, few Democrats decided to vote in the Republican primary — according to the exit polling, Democrats only constituted 7 percent of the vote in that contest.

Markos urged his readers to vote for Mitt Romney as a way to confuse the Republican primary race. Instead, Democrats by and large ignored the Republican primary, and to the extent that they participated at all, had no impact on the race. Bad weather may have contributed to the weak crossover vote, but more likely, Michigan Democrats had better things to do with their time than to commit minor polling mischief.

In looking at the exit polling at CNN, the surprise is in how broad Romney's victory was. He won most of the demographics in the exit polling, with McCain only winning a handful. McCain won among those who back a path-to-citizenship policy for immigration, but only by 5 points over Romney. That suggests that immigration was not as big an issue for Michigan Republicans despite a bad economy and job competition. Romney won pluralities among both conservatives and liberals, with McCain winning among moderates. Strangely, McCain won pluralities among those who disapprove and strongly disapprove of the Iraq war. Mitt handily won among those who support it, even though McCain has been one of its strongest advocates.

Ron Paul only won 6% of the overall vote, and did badly among expected demographics. He took 20% of those who strongly disapprove of the Iraq war, a third-place finish despite being the only anti-war candidate, and only 8% among those who somewhat disapprove of it. He took only 13% of the independents and just 7% of the Democrats, who themselves comprised only 7% of the vote.

Perhaps Markos would have done better to promote Ron Paul, as Republicans had mostly made up their minds for Romney long ago. Most, 54%, had made up their minds last month or before that, and only 32% decided in the last three days. Romney won all of those categories except for longer than two months ago, which suggests that the state wasn't as much in flux as some thought, and McCain didn't really get a boost from New Hampshire.

In any case, the crossover gambit flopped. Michigan voters proved their seriousness, even while others encouraged them to play silly games with the franchise.


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