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Published: Tuesday, 5/13/2008

173,000 Republicans in Ohio voted Democratic in primary


COLUMBUS - The number of Republicans who switched sides to vote for Democrats in Ohio's March primary eclipsed President Bush's 120,000-vote margin of victory in the state that decided the presidency four years ago, documents released yesterday show.

Although a small portion of total voters, the 173,000 people who previously voted Republican but voted Democratic in the primary could be an important group in November, when Ohio is again expected to be crucial.

Some of the crossover voters felt their choice counted more on the Democratic side with Sens. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama competing, because Sen. John McCain had all but won the Republican nomination. Some said they disliked Mrs. Clinton so much that they wanted to vote against her. And some of the wild card voters sought by both sides are still torn, but they voted in the Democratic contest to try to make sure each party had a nominee they could potentially support. The reasons were varied and complex.

"I could not stomach to have another Clinton in the White House," said Karen Purdy, one of the Republicans who switched. "I thought the country needed a fresh start and I thought Obama could do that."

Ms. Purdy, of Elida in traditionally Republican Allen County, doesn't know which candidate will get her vote in the fall. Her husband, Dennis, switched to help Mr. Obama as well but plans to vote for Mr. McCain in November.

Republicans switching sides represented roughly 8 percent of the 2.2 million Democratic ballots that were cast in Ohio in a contest in which Mrs. Clinton beat Mr. Obama. About four of every five voters who switched parties for the primary went from Republican to Democrat.

The election shattered Ohio primary turnout records, with about 45 percent of registered voters voting.

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