Messing with Democrats

San Francisco Chronicle:

Democratic Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's crucial Pennsylvania primary victory last week came with the help of a patchwork of political support: working-class voters, seniors, white men, Catholics, women and - maybe even the Great Satan.

Rush Limbaugh may be his real name, but to millions of Democratic grassroots voters, especially on the left, the conservative icon who's been called the most influential radio broadcaster in America reigns as the political Prince of Darkness.

Even more so during a 2008 presidential race in which Limbaugh has assumed a new title, "commander," as he heads a drive dubbed "Operation Chaos," a gleeful and, he argues, increasingly successful effort to wreak havoc with the Democratic primary system and its candidates, Clinton and Illinois Sen. Barack Obama.

Limbaugh's effort, which began early this year, is a call to arms urging conservatives and Republican voters to re-register as Democrats - and create chaos in that party's presidential nomination process by casting a vote.

The proof that it is working, Limbaugh says, is in the unusual turnout of turncoats: An estimated 100,000 GOP voters crossed over in Tuesday's Pennsylvania primary. And he argues it's no coincidence that TV networks last week appeared reluctant to rely on exit polling and waited more than an hour before calling a solid Keystone State win for Clinton. "Operation Chaos" loyalists have been following orders to mess with exit pollers en masse - by lying to them, Limbaugh says.

"The endgame is to see that neither of these candidates can win by virtue of the primaries," Limbaugh told The Chronicle last week. "One or the other will win only when the superdelegates decide who they want. And whoever the supers choose will infuriate the loser's supporters. More chaos."

Already, he notes, both Clinton and Obama have been "weakened - which was the objective," and their negatives are both approaching 50 percent. He cheers the fact that Obama "hasn't won a primary since Feb. 22 ... and he has lost in seven of the 10 most populous states."

So according to the broadcaster's ambitious schedule, "Operation Chaos" is right on track: By the time the Democratic Party convention in Denver rolls around in August, he said, both Obama and Clinton "will be so bloodied and brought down to earth that neither can win in the general."

It's a plan - political theater, blatant self-promotion or dirty tricks, take your pick - that has some Democrats, already weary of their party's presidential demolition derby, calling for his head, particularly after he told his listeners last week (apparently tongue-in-cheek) that Denver convention riots might be a nice finish to the Democratic contest.

"I hate him. I think having a 'Rush Limbaugh' vote is disgusting," sighs Democratic Party activist Gloria Nieto, who heads the Silicon Valley Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Democratic Club. "What kind of model is that for our democracy - that people would hear someone on the radio saying, 'Go screw with the Democrats!' "

...

Of course, they hated him before "Operation chaos." The story goes on to give the counter spin that these are disaffected Republicans. There may be some in there, but not that many. there are likely to be more disaffected Democrats after the race is over and that is Limbaugh's intent.

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