If there is any issue on which members of the GOP are united it is Obamacare. Gallup recently found that 86% of Republicans disapprove of the law. Yet Donald Trump has just won two GOP primaries despite his support of its worst provisions. Before Saturday’s South Carolina contest, for example, he announced that he favors its universally reviled individual mandate. In New Hampshire, he studiously avoided denouncing Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion. Trump claims he’ll repeal the law but said yesterday that opposition to national health care was “part of the problem with Republicans.” So, how can he be winning GOP primaries?
Perhaps it is because non-Republicans are allowed to choose GOP presidential candidates? New Hampshire and South Carolina hold “open” primaries in which “undeclared” voters and “independents” participate. Of the 100,406 primary votes Trump received in New Hampshire, more than 38,000 came from undeclared voters. Of the approximately 211,000 votes that Trump received in South Carolina about 47,000 came from alleged independents. It is no coincidence that the only state nomination process that Donald Trump has thus far lost involved the GOP’s Iowa caucuses, in which only actual Republicans are permitted to participate.
Is it really plausible that Democrats could pervert the GOP nomination process by registering as independents in order to vote for the weakest Republican candidate? Yep. In New Hampshire, for example, registered Democrats are theoretically prevented from voting in a Republican primary, but that technicality can be overcome by changing one’s designation to undeclared prior to the primary and changing it back to Democrat later. And there are similar loopholes in all of the 17 states that have open primaries. That’s right. There are 15 more states in which you can participate in choosing the GOP nominee even if you aren’t a Republican.
Why would the Democrats interfere in the GOP primary process? The answer should be obvious. The favorite to win the Democrat presidential nomination this year is currently under investigation by the FBI and could, at least in theory, be indicted during the campaign. Her primary competition is a proud socialist. The only prayer the Democrats have of winning is to assure that the GOP candidate is such a jackass that even Hillary or Bernie can beat him. The braying billionaire fits the bill perfectly. RealClearPolitics has consistently shown that Clinton would defeat Trump in the general election. Even Sanders would beat him.
This is not the case where other GOP candidates are concerned. The RCP head-to-head between Clinton and Marco Rubio, for example, shows Rubio beating Clinton with relative ease. And Rubio appears to be rapidly gaining on Trump as the candidate with the most potential to capture the Republican nomination. Moreover, the Donald’s wild behavior, incoherent policy positions, and outright lies are catching up with him. Last week’s NBC/WSJ survey found that in hypothetical one-on-one match ups for the GOP nomination, “Trump trails … Rubio (57 percent to 41 percent). In January, Trump was ahead of Rubio (by 7 points).”
In other words, the Democrats are in danger of facing a genuine Republican capable of actually winning the general election if they don’t cross over and vote for Donald Trump in the 15 remaining open primaries. And to pre-empt claims by Trump zombies that this all just a conspiracy theory dreamed up by a “GOPe,” concerns about open primaries are by no means unique to yours truly. A couple of years ago, RNC Chairman Reince Priebus put it thus: “I have been a longtime supporter of closed primaries to choose our candidates for office.… This is a position I have held for a long time and is consistent with the party’s platform.”
The problem is that the GOP can’t simply dictate primary rules to the states. The decision to have open primaries, closed primaries, or some hybrid is made by state legislators. The issue has been the subject of countless lawsuits. As it happens, a GOP chapter in South Carolina sued the state back in 2009 in an effort to eliminate the open primary. The basis of the suit was that open primaries violate our constitutional right to free association. As the Greenville County GOP Chairman said at the time, “Only Republicans can vote in the Republican Party primary, for the same reason only Baptists can vote for deacons in the Baptist Church.”
As Saturday’s primary made clear, that suit didn’t get very far. The good news is that, even with the aid of Democrat trolls, Trump is a long way from sewing up the nomination. He has thus far accumulated a whopping 67 delegates toward the 1,237 required to win the nomination. And the upcoming Nevada caucuses are closed. On the other hand, a significant number of the “Super Tuesday” primaries fall into the open category, including Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Minnesota, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, and Virginia. Thus, it’s likely that a lot of Democrats will become fundamentally transformed into “independents” on March 1.
The damage they can do would be curtailed, of course, if John Kasich and Ben Carson would follow Jeb Bush’s example and get out of the race. Both are decent men, but neither has a prayer of getting the nomination. It would also help if Rubio and Cruz would quit bickering and turn their sights on Trump. As Cruz put it recently, “A vote for Trump is a vote for Obamacare,” and the Donald’s own effusions confirm that fact. Trump’s supporters among genuine Republicans need to hear a lot more of the same. The truth will set them free and will also ameliorate the toxic effect of Democrat interference in the GOP nomination process.