Democracy Dies in Darkness

Post Politics

Bernie Sanders won 2,095 votes in the New Hampshire Republican primary

February 11, 2016 at 9:47 PM

People show support outside the PBS NewsHour Democratic presidential debate venue in Milwaukee on Feb. 11, 2016. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

In the days before New Hampshire's primaries, reporters encountered a curious phenomenon: Republicans or moderates who admitted a fondness for the Senate's only self-proclaimed democratic socialist. Plenty of them crossed party lines to vote for him in the Democratic primary -- and 2,095 took Republican ballots and wrote in the name of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt).

The write-in totals for the primary, released by New Hampshire's secretary of state Thursday, find that well more than half of Republican write-in votes were cast for Sanders, and 540 more were cast for former secretary of state Hillary Clinton. No other candidate, or "candidate" came close; Kanye West, the rapper and producer who has threatened to run for president in 2020, earned just one write-in vote. None of this surprised the Sanders campaign.

"He gets a significant Republican vote in Vermont, about 20 percent in the last Senate election," said spokesman Michael Briggs. "There was a Castleton University poll last year in Vermont that showed him tied for the lead among Republican White House hopefuls."

Sanders's total was dominant, but not historic. Four years earlier, 2,289 New Hampshire Democrats who turned out for the uncompetitive re-nomination of President Obama wrote in the name of Texas Congressman Ron Paul, a libertarian whose coalition included plenty of liberals. A much smaller number wrote in Hillary Clinton, then serving in the Obama administration. And in 1968, President Lyndon B. Johnson won the primary as a write-in candidate -- yet not impressively enough to quiet the campaign of Minnesota Sen. Eugene McCarthy, who ran a close second.

This year's Democratic primary had a smaller write-in count, but its "winner" was another politician who appealed to independents in a way that baffled the press. Donald J. Trump won 1,795 Democratic votes.

David Weigel is a national political correspondent covering Congress and grass-roots political movements. He is the author of "The Show That Never Ends," a history of progressive rock music.

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