On This Week, George Will falsely asserted that "in the primaries," McCain "has achieved more independent voters than Obama"

››› ››› ANDREW WALZER

On ABC's This Week, George Will falsely asserted that "in the primaries," Sen. John McCain "has achieved more independent voters than [Sen. Barack] Obama." In fact, in calculations based on exit polls, in each of the nine states that have held open or semi-open primaries contested by both Obama and McCain, Obama received more votes from voters who identified themselves as "independent" than McCain.

During a roundtable discussion on the February 17 edition of ABC's This Week with George Stephanopoulos, Washington Post columnist George Will falsely asserted that "in the primaries," Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain "has achieved more independent voters than [Sen. Barack] Obama." In fact, exit polling on CNN's website indicates that in all nine states that have held open or semi-open primaries contested by both Obama and McCain, Obama received more votes from voters who identified themselves as "independent" than McCain. Overall, in calculations based on the exit polling from CNN.com, Obama received more than 777,000 votes from independents in the nine states with open and semi-open primaries, compared with approximately 385,000 votes from independents for McCain.

Open primaries are primaries in which all registered voters can vote in either party's primary. Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Missouri, New Hampshire, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia have held open Republican and Democratic primaries in which McCain and Obama have competed. Massachusetts held a semi-open Republican and Democratic primary in which party members and independents could vote, but members of another party could not. The exit polling was not conducted in Minnesota, North Dakota, and Washington state, which all held open caucuses.

Democratic primaries

Total number of voters in Dem primary (according to CNN results page)

% of inds. in Dem primary (according to exit polls)

Inds. voting in Dem primary (derived from exit polls)*

% of inds. voting for Obama (according to exit polls)

Inds. voting for Obama (derived from exit polls)**

AL

539,743

13

70,167

48

33,680

AR

307,318

18

55,317

32

17,701

GA

1,046,485

19

198,832

63

125,264

MO

820,453

22

180,500

67

120,935

NH

284,104

44

125,006

41

51,252

SC

530,322

23

121,974

42

51,229

TN

614,096

20

122,819

47

57,725

VA

970,393

22

213,486

69

147,305

MA

1,244,133

33

410,564

42

172,437

Total***

777,528


Republican primaries

Total number of voters in GOP primary (according to CNN results page)

% of inds. in GOP primary (according to exit polls)

Inds. voting in GOP primary (derived from exit polls)*

% of inds. voting for McCain (according to exit polls)

Inds. voting for McCain (derived from exit polls)**

AL

563,822

18

101,488

32

32,476

AR

224,581

22

49,408

22

10,870

GA

954,462

18

171,803

28

48,105

MO

584,618

23

134,462

35

47,062

NH

233,381

37

86,351

40

34,540

SC

442,918

18

79,725

42

33,485

TN

547,614

22

120,475

31

37,347

VA

481,980

21

101,216

38

38,462

MA

496,171

44

218,315

47

102,608

Total***

384,955

*For both Democratic and Republican primaries, the total number of independents voting in each state's primary is an approximation derived from multiplying the total number of votes in the party's primary and the percentage of voters in the primary who were independents, according to the exit polling on CNN.com.

** The total number of independents voting for Obama and McCain in each state is an approximation derived from multiplying the approximate number of independents voting in the Democratic and Republican primary (respectively) and the percentage of those independents who voted for the respective candidate, according to CNN.com's exit polls.

*** The total number of independents voting for Obama and McCain in the nine states combined is derived by adding the approximate total of independents voting for the two candidates in each state.

In addition, during the discussion of who can win independent voters, host George Stephanopoulos referred to McCain's "line" that Obama is the "most liberal senator, according to National Journal" without expressing the skepticism for that assertion that he had previously shown. On the February 3 edition of This Week, Stephanopoulos stated: "[Y]ou saw the National Journal this week, he was the most liberal senator. Now, I don't put any credence in the way they get to that, but it's still a line Republicans are going to use." As Media Matters for America pointed out, among the "liberal" votes that purportedly earned Obama the label "most liberal senator" were votes to implement the bipartisan 9-11 Commission's homeland security recommendations, provide more children with health insurance, permit federal funding for embryonic stem-cell research, and maintain a federal minimum wage.

From the February 17 broadcast of ABC's This Week:

STEPHANOPOULOS: He seems to have decided, George, that Hillary Clinton is likely a better opponent for him than Barack Obama. But you heard that line that he said about Obama -- "most liberal senator, according to National Journal." How effective can that be? And it's going to go right to the heart of who can win these independents between Obama and McCain if Obama gets the nomination.

WILL: So far, in the primaries, he -- McCain -- has achieved more independent voters than Obama has, so that's where it will be settled. And in this sense, we're past the [former White House senior adviser Karl] Rove era. Rove, going in to 2004, said there were 7 percent independents. They don't matter; what you do is rally your base. We're back to a more normal election in which there is a middle of maybe 20 percent that's in play. And in that sense, whether or not he can convince the country that beneath the soaring rhetoric there are details, and they won't like the details, that's his job.

Posted In
Elections
Network/Outlet
ABC
Person
George F. Will
Show/Publication
This Week
Stories/Interests
John McCain, 2008 Elections
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