Did the Democrats select Republican Senate nominee in Missouri?

Did the Democrats elect Congressman Todd Akin in the Missouri Republican Senatorial primary election on August 7th? Todd Akin won the primary by 36,616 votes over John Brunner. There are 3,428 precincts in the state of Missouri. That is less than 11 votes per precinct.

Since Missouri is an open ballot state where you do not register with a political party, you can pick any party's ballot in a primary election. This year there was virtually no opposition for the statewide offices in the Democratic Party. Senator Claire McCaskill ran unopposed on the Democrats' ticket. The Republican primary had three major candidates, Sarah Steelman, Todd Akin, and John Brunner, as well as five lesser-known candidates.

Did Democrats vote in the Republican primary in an attempt to determine the Republican nominee? One Springfield Republican did tell me that she saw two known Democrats take Republican ballots. There has been some speculation that Sen. Claire McCaskill wanted to run against Rep. Todd Akin, believing that was her best chance of winning. Polling showed that all three candidates would beat McCaskill in the general election, but Akin had the smallest margin.

All of the early polling had Sarah Steelman leading with Akin and John Bruner significantly behind. Recently, Bruner made a surge in the polls. The Public Policy Polling (PPP) poll released on August 5th had John Bruner leading with 35%, followed by Todd Akin at 30%, and Sarah Steelman at 25%. 10% of the voters planned to choose someone else or they were undecided. The election results: Todd Akin 36.0%, John Bruner 30.0% and Sarah Steelman 29.2%.

So did the Democrats get Akin elected? In 2010 there was a U.S. Senate primary race that was essentially uncontested on both the Republican and Democrat tickets, so little crossover voting would be expected. Let's compare the voting pattern in 2010 with 2012. If there was crossover voting from Democrat to Republican, we would expect to see a decrease in the number of Democrat ballots from 2010 to 2012 with a corresponding increase in the number of Republican ballots from 2010 to 2012. From 2010 to 2012 the number of Democrat ballots statewide decreased by 28,441, but the number of Republican ballots statewide increased by only 23,772. The Democrat decrease could be due to the general lack of opposition on the Democrat ticket. Many Republican statewide and local races were hotly contested, so more Republicans would be expected to turn out and vote. If Democrats picked up Republican ballots, you would expect to see large numbers in the Democrat strongholds in the state where the Democrat machine could get the word out to pick up a Republican ballot and vote for Todd Akin.

Let's look at traditional Democrat strongholds. In Boone County, which includes the University of Missouri, from 2010 to 2012 the number of Democrat ballots decreased by 1,958 and the number of Republican ballots increased by 937. In Kansas City, the number of Democrat ballots increased by 3,493, but the number of Republican ballots increased by 1,655. Due to redistricting, St. Louis City had hotly contested races in the Democrat primary for the U.S. House and Missouri State Senate. Two U.S. House Democrat incumbents, Lacy Clay and Russ Carnahan, were facing off against each other after Russ Carnahan's district was eliminated by the Republican controlled state legislature. The Democrat ballots increased by 11,156, but the Republican ballots increased by only 203. In St. Louis County which leans Republican, the Democrat ballots increased by 10,031, but the Republican ballots increased by a minuscule 73. In Republican strongholds like Greene County and St. Charles County the number of Democrat and Republican ballots was essentially the same from 2010 to 2012. A random sample of three small rural counties (Reynolds, heavy Democrat; Macon, even split; Lawrence, heavy Republican) showed a decrease of 276 in the number of Democrat voters and a decrease of 1,101 in the number of Republican voters from 2010 to 2012. It doesn't look like a 36,616 vote swing occurred because of crossover voting. So what happened?

At the Greene County Republican barbecue three days before the primary election, Todd Akin introduced himself by saying, "I'm Todd Akin and I'm too conservative" making light of Sen. McCaskill's television ads. Even though there may have been some Democrats voting in the Republican primary, likely it was not enough to change the outcome. Republicans voted for Todd Akin in the Republican primary because, like Missouri and the nation as a whole, he is conservative.

John Lilly, MBA, DO is a family physician and President of the Locke and Smith Foundation. He can be reached through his website 

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