GOP votes may help Hillary Clinton

March 18, 2008 1:08:51 PM PDT
After years of battling the Clintons, it's surprising to find a significant number of Republican voters now supporting Hillary Clinton's nomination.

Today the Boston Globe reported on exit poll numbers showing a major shift by GOP voters.

It could be Republicans are hoping that Hillary Clinton will be the Democratic nominee, it could be they just want to prolong the battle between Clinton and Barack Obama.

Either way a growing number of GOP voters are voting for Clinton. And on Monday, Bill Clinton told Good Morning America the popular vote should be a factor in determining the nominee.

In an interview with ABC's Robin Roberts, former President Clinton said the nomination shouldn't automatically go to the candidate with the most pledged delegates.

"If Hillary wins the popular vote but can't quite catch up with the delegate votes, then you have to just ask yourself which is more important and who is more likely to win in November," said former president Bill Clinton.

Clinton still trails Obama in the popular vote, but she has a better chance of catching him there than in the delegate count. Particularly with the help she's been getting from registered Republicans.

In Ohio 100,000 registered Republicans voted for Clinton, in Texas 119,000 and in last week's Mississippi primary, 38,000.

With John McCain securing the Republican nomination, conservative talk radio hosts like Rush Limbaugh have been urging Republicans to vote for Clinton to prolong the Democratic primary battle.

And it appears to be working. In Texas and Ohio, GOP votes amounted to nine-percent of the Democratic contest -- that's double the average from earlier primaries.

In Mississippi, Republican votes in the Democratic primary rose to 12 percent, and they favored Clinton three to one.

San Francisco attorney Tony West is a member of Barack Obama's Leadership Council.

"Well I certainly think the Democratic nominee ought to be nominated by the Democratic voters," said attorney Tony West from Obama's Leadership Council.

ABC7's Mark Matthews: "How do you sort that out?"

"I think we'll have to see where we are with that at the end of the day. I do think this will be determined by the number of delegates that one side or the other has," said West.

ABC7 political analyst Bruce Cain says if Republicans continue to vote in the Democratic primaries in big numbers it is trouble for the Democrats.

"That's just going to add a huge amount of controversy on top of what is already a very bad controversy inside the Democratic Party so it is not welcome news at all," said ABC7's Political Analyst Bruce Cain.

Of the nine remaining contests, only three are open primaries allowing registered Republicans to vote on the Democratic ticket.

Those primaries are Indiana, Montana and Puerto Rico. Next month's big contest in Pennsylvania is a closed primary. Only registered Democrats will be allowed to vote on the Democratic ticket.