Despite all the Chicken Little hand-wringing about potential damage resulting from the heated Democratic Presidential campaign in the wake of the Pennsylvania primary, there was some bad news for McCain in the results coming out of PA. Frank Rich explained it well in his Sunday NYT column “How McCain Lost in Pennsylvania“:
…as the doomsday alarm grew shrill, few noticed that on this same day in Pennsylvania, 27 percent of Republican primary voters didn’t just tell pollsters they would defect from their party’s standard-bearer; they went to the polls, gas prices be damned, to vote against Mr. McCain. Though ignored by every channel I surfed, there actually was a G.O.P. primary on Tuesday, open only to registered Republicans. And while it was superfluous in determining that party’s nominee, 220,000 Pennsylvania Republicans (out of their total turnout of 807,000) were moved to cast ballots for Mike Huckabee or, more numerously, Ron Paul. That’s more voters than the margin (215,000) that separated Hillary Clinton and Mr. Obama.
Those antiwar Paul voters are all potential defectors to the Democrats in November. Mr. Huckabee’s religious conservatives, who rejected Mr. McCain throughout the primary season, might also bolt or stay home. Given that the Democratic ticket beat Bush-Cheney in Pennsylvania by 205,000 votes in 2000 and 144,000 votes in 2004, these are 220,000 voters the G.O.P. can ill-afford to lose. Especially since there are now a million more registered Democrats than Republicans in Pennsylvania. (These figures don’t even include independents, who couldn’t vote in either primary on Tuesday and have been migrating toward the Democrats since 2006.)
This would be less surprising if it was soon after McCain clinched a winning number of delegates. But it’s been a while, now. One would expect a large portion of PA GOP voters to sit their primary out, since their votes didn’t count for much. However, when more than a quarter of PA GOP voters cast ballots against their nominee, even after the nomination is decided, McCain and the GOP have some healing of their own to do before they can crow about divisions between Democrats.