I knew there was something wrong when I went to vote at 10 A.M. and I was only the second Republican to show up at my precinct; the first was my wife who'd voted an hour earlier. As I was leaving I saw familiar Republican comrades standing in the wrong line and it dawned on me. They've actually been listening to the talk radio strategists, and I knew from their sheepish faces that they were all crossing over to vote for Hillary.
As the news has come in during the day my suspicions are being overwhelmingly confirmed. Our local talk shows are getting calls reporting the same thing I experienced from the most heavily Republican precincts in our county. The big news is coming from just to the north of us in legendary Williamson County, known nationwide as a scary bastion of ultra-conservatism. In Williamson County, where it's hard to find a Democrat to laugh at and poke with a stick, they were already running out of Democratic ballots at noon. They had to reassign poll workers from the Republican primary to the Democratic primary on the fly to meet up with demand as thousands of Republicans crossed over to vote in the Democratic primary.
Until today I would have called Texas for Obama based on his enormous groundswell of grassroots support and snowballing momentum, but so many Republicans are crossing over to vote for Hillary that Obama's authentic popular support may not be enough to carry the election. In some precincts anecdotal reports have over 90% of the Republican voters crossing to the other side.
The strategy behind this is simple. It's been promoted both by Rush Limbaugh and other national talk show personalities and by local Republican icons. All of the polls show that John McCain can beat Hillary Clinton in a general election and that he can't beat Barack Obama in the general election, so the message has gone out that Republicans who want to keep the White House should vote for Clinton so that she stays in the race and continues to have a shot at the Democratic nomination.
Comments from crossover voters show an interesting mix of motivations. While some Reagan Democrats seem to have seen this as an opportunity to return to the Democratic party, most of those commenting are convinced that McCain has a lock on the nomination and that they can do more good undermining the Democrats by keeping the chaos of the campaign going and by giving Clinton a boost. There also seems to be a strain of pranksterism. Apparently a lot of people are finding the bloody Democratic campaign entertaining and they don't want it to end. Today's weather is beautiful, and that seems to have put voters in a mood to go out and have some fun at the polls.
This strange turn in the primary may have other interesting effects. Here in Travis County there are a couple of Republican candidates who crossed over and filed to run in the Democratic primary against incumbents. They may do better than expected as a result of crossover voters. In fact, any Democratic incumbent who has a challenger may be in trouble. The other weird effect may be a surprise landslide for Ron Paul. With so many mainstream Republicans voting Democrat, just about the only Republican voters left are the diehard Ron Paul supporters and libertarians who usually vote Republican in the primary. It's impossible to judge. Even if there were exit polls there would be no way to trust them, but Ron Paul might actually win Texas on a pure fluke.
It would be ridiculous to try to make any kind of call on the election, but I think we should prepare for the unexpected and the inexplicable. The Democratic results in Texas will probably still be close, but I think Hillary might pull it out. I have no idea what it will mean for the election, but I wouldn't be surprised to see Ron Paul register his first win in the second largest state in the union. It's like we've moved to bizarro world and everything is backwards.
As for me, I cast my lonely vote for Ron Paul on principle, even though I'll be happy enough with McCain in November. Putting aside the ethical questions nagging at my conscience, I couldn't bring myself to vote for Clinton and do anything to contribute to the national disaster which would follow if this high risk strategy backfired and she were actually elected.