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June 07, 2012 8:27 AM Birther Fizzle

By Jonathan Bernstein

As far as I know, exactly 100% of all political junkies — plus, I suppose, the Barack Obama campaign — were rooting for birther queen Orly Taitz to advance to the November election against Dianne Feinstein.

In the event, however, her campaign was a major fizzle; not only did she wind up far behind de facto GOP nominee (and extreme November longshot) Elizabeth Emken, but she was also behind two other Republicans, and barely ahead of a couple more.

That isn’t stopping TPM’s Ryan Reilly from still trying to prop her up; his story (which doesn’t even mention the less embarrassing Emken) is about how Taitz succeeded in “racking up tens of thousands of votes.”

C’mon. The Taitz fizzle is a pretty clear sign that most Republican voters want nothing to do with her brand of nonsense. First of all, those “tens of thousands” of votes add up to just 3% of the vote, or just over 6% of the GOP half of the vote (remember, this is a “jungle” primary in which all candidates appear on the ballot). It’s a big state! That’s for a candidate who probably had better name recognition than the one(s) who clobbered her.

And, on top of that, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if a fair number of her eventual 110K votes came from insincere Democrats crossing over to try to mess with the process. Again — the new California system encourages that sort of thing. After all, every Democrat who voted had the opportunity to vote for any of the Senate candidates. Dianne Feinstein didn’t need any votes; she was clearly going to wind up on the November ballot (she finished 43 points ahead of the third place candidate). She should beat Emken easily, but against Taitz she wouldn’t have had to spend a penny, and Mitt Romney would have had to deal with distancing himself from an embarrassment, something he hasn’t been especially good at. I certainly would have advised any Democrat looking to vote strategically to strongly consider Taitz, and I suspect many of them did so.

I’ve always thought that the polling that shows extensive belief in or sympathy to birther theories is picking up a lot more on general dislike of Barack Obama than it is in any kind of serious buy-in to wild conspiracy theories. Unfortunately, I don’t have much to back that up; the typical polls don’t explore enough to confirm my suspicions. But the electoral fate of Orly Taitz does tend to support it. After all, Republicans had little to lose by nominating her, given that they have very little chance to win that seat. That they reject her anyway is at least a bit of evidence that whatever they tell pollsters, many Republican voters really want nothing to with at least that version of the crazy.

[Cross-posted at A plain blog about politics]

Jonathan Bernstein is a political scientist who writes about American politics, especially the presidency, Congress, parties, and elections.
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Comments

  • jpeckjr on June 08, 2012 11:27 AM:

    I'm a California Democrat and I did consider voting for Ms. Taitz for exactly the reasons you note. But, in the end, I couldn't come to terms with having her being able add "Republican candidate for US Senate" to her resume.

    I voted for one of the other Democrats, though. Because Sen. Feinstein will be 85 when this next term ends and we Dems are going to need someone to run in 2018. That's enough time for the Republicans to find someone viable.

    I think the extreme age of so many Senators in both parties is an unspoken issue for the country, both parties, and the voters.

  • bluestatedon on June 10, 2012 7:34 PM:

    Oily Taint makes Sarah Palin look almost reasonable, which is no small achievement.