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Little GOP Mischief in Penn.

More than 300,000 Pennsylvanians signed up as Democrats this year to be able to participate in yesterday's Democratic primary, which was limited to party members. Nearly half of those voters were formerly registered as Republicans, according to the Secretary of State, and there has been rampant speculation those voters switched their allegiances only to muck up the Democratic nomination contest.

Radio host Rush Limbaugh, for one, encouraged his Keystone State listeners to vote for Hillary Clinton in the primary, suggesting a prolonged Democratic campaign benefits presumptive GOP nominee John McCain. Limbaugh dubbed the effort "Operation Chaos." While there are signs the extended contest may hurt the eventual Democratic nominee, there's very little evidence new "Democrats" in Pennsylvania were so strategic in their voting.

Yesterday's hotly contested primary did attract record numbers of newly-minted Democrats (they made up 13 percent of the Democratic electorate), but network exit polls show those voters, even an overwhelming percentage of former Republicans, were sincere in their vote choices.

Nearly all new Democrats who voted for Clinton or Barack Obama said they would stick with their choices in a November face-off against McCain. Moreover, majorities said they would support the Democratic nominee even if top choice in the primary did not prevail.

Overall, 96 percent of new Democrats who supported Obama said they would vote for him in the general. Clinton retains the support of 87 percent of her new Democrats.

Looking only at former Republicans, more than eight in 10 said they would repeat their primary vote in the general if that candidate wins the nomination. Just 8 percent said they would switch up and vote for McCain over the Democrat they supported yesterday. (Overall, former Republicans split their votes evenly between Clinton and Obama.)

By Jon Cohen  |  April 23, 2008; 1:31 PM ET
Categories:  Exit polls  
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