Is Limbaugh’s Operation Chaos Working?

By Jennifer Parker

May 6, 2008 11:03pm

Melanie Kerr is an Indiana voter we met over the weekend at the "Orchard In Bloom" festival.

She was looking forward to casting her ballot for Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-NY.

But she doesn’t like Clinton.

She likes Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.

She’s a Republican.

So why was she planning on voting in Indiana’s open Democratic primary?

“I want to keep the primary going as long as possible,” Kerr said. “I want to keep a debate going between the two of them…. Obama would have been untouched in my opinion if she didn’t stay in the race. Then her staying in longer and even longer than (her attacks) will be in people’s minds in Democratic people’s minds when November comes around.”

It isn’t that Kerr thinks Clinton would be easier than Sen. Barack Obama, D-Illinois, for McCain to defeat in the Fall. It’s the idea that with Clinton “in there, that keeps the debate between them going and we get more, uh, more chaos.”

Kerr giggles. “That’s the name — Operation Chaos.”

**

“Operation Chaos was born primarily for the purpose assuming Obama was going to be the nominee at the get-go of this,” Limbaugh explained on his show.  “He needs to be bloodied up politically since McCain is not going to do it. Since the Republican Party is not going to be on the field in this way, somebody’s gotta bloody up Obama.  The only person that can do it is Hillary, and she can’t do it if she’s not in the race — and so the purpose was Operation Chaos was to keep her in the race and to have her bloody up Obama in the process of staying in the race.”

“And, lo and behold, it’s happened,” Limbaugh said. “This is the crucible of chaos.  Look at what Operation Chaos has forged.  Mrs. Clinton now is threatening to obliterate Iran.  She says she gonna break up OPEC.  She wants to hold the money brokers responsible for the alleged recession.  She says she gonna renege on NAFTA.  She’ll take what she calls the excess profits from Big Oil.  And she’s going to do all that while hunting and downing shots of Crown Royal followed by a beer. 

“None of that, not one of these Clinton promises would exist were it not for Operation Chaos.  The train would not have come off the tracks of the Obama campaign, were it not for Operation Chaos.  The Jeremiah Wright stuff and all that, yes, that would have happened, but nothing could have done anything about it because Mrs. Clinton would have been effectively out of the race, not able to mount a campaign.  So we’d be in a far different spot today than we were so the purpose of this is to keep this going — exactly what’s happened.”

**

There were anecdotal reports of big turnout in Republican precincts in Indiana – with, presumably, Republican voters asking for Democratic presidential ballots.

Were they Republicans swept up in Clintonmania or Obamamania? Or did they have something more devious on their minds?

Most of the Republicans voting for Clinton or Obama this election season have been voting sincerely for those candidates – or so they told us, at any rate.

But there have been some here and there whom we’ve met and who — like Kerr — are part of General Limbaugh’s army.

Has there been a real impact?

Eleven percent of the voters in Indiana tonight were Republican, Marc Ambinder of the Atlantic reports — and they went for Clinton over Obama 52% to 46%.

Over at the Huffington Post, Sam Stein crunches some of the exit poll numbers and wonders: “Thirty-six percent of primary voters said that Clinton does not share their values. And yet, among that total, one out of every five (20 percent) nevertheless voted for her in the Indiana election. Moreover, of the 10 percent of Hoosiers who said ‘neither candidate’ shared their values, 75 percent cast their ballots for Clinton.

“These are not small numbers. By comparison, of the 33 percent of voters who said Sen. Barack Obama does not share their values, only seven percent cast their ballots in his favor. Basically, more people who don’t relate to Clinton are, for one reason or another, still voting for her. These are not likely to be loyal supporters.”

ABC News’ Polling Director Gary Langer does not think much of these theories.

“ABC News reported in Pennsylvania that 23% who saw Clinton as not honest and trustworthy voted for her anyway," Langer emails. "Some people don’t like her but still like her better than Obama.”

He sees no data to support the notion of game playing.

The Obama campaign points out that 7 percent in the Indiana primary were Clinton primary voters who said they’d support McCain against Clinton in the general election.

Same in North Carolina. (2 percent in each were Obama voters who said they’d vote for McCain in an Obama-McCain match up.)

"But I cannot see any evidence that this has anything to do with Limbaugh," Langer says. "I guess it can’t be ruled out, but neither can any number of other possibilities, at least as plausible. People who like Clinton, or who just want to see a woman nominated, but like McCain more. People who don’t like Obama, or just don’t want to see an African-American nominated. These people are disproportionately Republicans. But again, that doesn’t mean they were trying to do damage. Indeed, they are more likely than others to think Clinton has a better chance than Obama to beat McCain. You’d think, if they were agents for McCain, they’d have voted for Obama."

**

But Mr. Limbaugh sees things differently.

Via email, Limbaugh read email “field reports…from people, commandos, operatives reporting that they have followed orders and fulfilled their duty.”

New Albany, Indiana: "I received a call from one of Obama’s operatives.  She asked me if I was going to vote for Obama in the primary.  I said, ‘No.’  She asked me who I was voting for.  I said, ‘Operation Chaos.’  The Obama worker laughed and then said, ‘Okay,’ with a positive tone to her voice and thanked me for my time." 

Shoals, Indiana: "Rush, at 8:15 a.m. this morning I voted for Hillary Clinton in the Indiana primary.  It was tough.  I showered twice. I threw up a little bit in my mouth, but I did it.  It was an honor to follow your orders.  Matthew Sullivan."

What are you guys seeing out there?

- jpt

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