Republican Dirty Tricks in Iowa?

Richard Sherman at Sherman’s Blog (link on sidebar) posted some disturbing anecdotal evidence that the Republican Party may have urged some of the faithful to turn out in Iowa pretending to be Democrats:

Rumors, scuttlebutt and evidence exists that makes clear that the Republicans are actively trying to sabotage/corrupt this election. In that spirit, note the following, posted on Danny Schechter’s site ( CHARGE: REPUBLICANS INFILTRATE IOWA CAUCUSES

From a Dean group. My friend Dawn in Iowa told me the same thing – that they were stunned by the number of Republicans changing their registration at the door. It appears that possibly only 55% of the Iowa caucus voters were Democrats trying to cast a legitimate vote. We can expect this cross-over voting in any caucus where it’s allowed. My impression is that it’s allowed in a great number of the states. So whoever chooses our Democratic nominee, it won’t really be Democrats. We have the same thing here as I’ve discovered when calling Democrats on election day, only to have some of them nastily and gloatingly tell me they’re Republicans and have already voted – for Bush. Margie.

Another voice:

GOP crossover 45% in Iowa caucus*

I don’t watch TV. My friend Cathy in Kansas is a huge CSPAN fan and reported the following this morning (comments edited). She called CSPAN complaining about all the Iowa shenanigans.


I called into CSPAN this morning at 6:30 AM and told them my view of the Republicans and Independents who got to cross-over and cause that surge that pushed Kerry over the top. I also agreed with another caller who was Republican, who said the media was running Dean as a big top dog and then when he did not win the number one spot he crashed a lot harder. The other caller also said the media did negative reporting towards Dean. I said that the history of the Iowa caucuses only sent two on to the presidency. The Iowans that were calling into the program Susan hosted were reporting the huge number of new voters…cross-overs who were Democrats for the night. They said they had never seen so many like last night! They ran out of the sign-up sheets. The workers at the caucuses were having to turn them over and use both sides of the sign-up sheets and then started using plain paper to sign up new voters. Susan on CSPAN quoted 45% new voter registration. That is big. They picked Iowa’s guy by crashing the caucuses and voting for Kerry and Edwards. This is why the media had to tear down Dean and fix the bad Zogby poll then pack the caucuses to give Kerry & Edwards the votes. Republicans again picking our candidate.

If this is even partly true, then the Rove Dirty Tricks Machine is already humming. Sherman then notes the revelation that for a year GOP committee staffers had access to Democratic communications, especially planning memos, and showed no compunction about stealing them and making them public; he is apparently suggesting that the two things are not unrelated. I agree with him. I think they’re different aspects of the same strategy: Win–no matter what you have to do.

The problem, of course, is that many of the primary states–including NH and SC–have very loose rules around registering to vote in a primary; in some states you can change your registration at the door to vote in one primary, then change it back to vote in the other. If Rove and the RNC have been planning to orchestrate an infiltration by the GOP faithful of the Democratic primaries nationwide, then we are talking about massive and deliberate falsification of Democratic primary results with the goal of trying to push the Dems into nominating the weakest possible candidate to oppose Bush.

Of the 4 legitimate candidates, the weakest–imo–is Kerry, not Dean. Dean is a centrist with a history of being able to appeal to the party base for primaries and then successfully make a shift to the center for the general. He’s proved he can generate excitement, press coverage, money, and legions of avid volunteers. Kerry, on the other hand, is a standard Democrat tied to the party machinery. He tends to be a yawn on tv, not much better in person, and he’s pushing pretty much the same old issues-oriented platform that lost the Dems the Congress–the Pubs already know they can beat him where Dean is an unpredictable outsider. In addition, Kerry has major negatives that make him an easy target, and a history of caving in when the chips are down. For purely political reasons–he was reading which way the wind was blowing–he voted against affirmative action and the tenure system (the only protection teachers have from being fired for taking politically unpopular stands), and for welfare reform and the Second Gulf War, in each case abandoning his previously stated positions in order to feed his ambitions.

All of this means that Kerry is far more likely than any other legitimate candidate to repeat the mistakes Al Gore made in the last election and the Dems as a whole have been making for a decade. The Pubs don’t want to run against a Lieberman who who can credibly mimic their agenda or against a wild-card like Dean who has a real chance to catch fire late enough in the game to capture the swing voters. And they sure as hell don’t want to run against an Edwards if they can help it–his populist “two Americas” theme (which has proved so effective on the campaign trail that Kerry stole it for himself) is tailor-made to exploit every weakness Bush has in the polls: his excessive kowtowing to corporations, his mania for tax cuts that favor the rich, his championing of a jobless “recovery”, and his perceived disconnection from the reality ordinary folk have to deal with.

So are the Publicans planning to distort the Democratic primaries to favor the man they figure is their lamest opponent? Polls say that some 45% of people who took part in the Iowa caucusses were “new” voters. How much of that was due to Dean’s all-out effort to get the uninvolved back into the process? Not that many, apparently, since he came in third at a bare 18%. Which raises the question, who were the rest of these people? Could some–or a lot–of them have been Republicans crossing over for the night to injure or cripple a dangerous front-runner? And can we expect to hear more of this as the primary season wears on?

Questions that deserve some serious thought.

Note: I want to stress that these are unverified posts, not news reports, and as such we need to be careful about giving them too much weight. But given the horrendous job the press has done covering any story not stamped with the Bush Admin’s imprimatur, they may be the only evidence we’ll have to go on if it is in fact happening, which means we’d better be equally careful about dismissing them too easily. From my pov, these stories have a ring of potential truth because they are precisely the sort of tactic we have come to expect from Rove&Co.

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