Democrat assumptions and misassumptions sbout the General ElectionSeveral people that I know who have real political ground knowledge-what I would call "insider" status-have said repeatedly that they believe that Hillary Clinton will somehow hornswaggle her way to the Democratic presidential nomination. I have maintained the opposite belief, based on the notion that the longer the Democrats' internal nomination fight goes on, the more this benefits Barack Obama, because in spite of her ability to win large States, Hillary Clinton is simply unable to put Obama away. Now Obama has a pledged delegate lead that can only be overcome if Hillary wins Pennsylvania by at least a 25 point margin (not likely at this point), and carries a State that Obama was supposed to win, and do so by at least 10 points.
The reason that I believe that such a complicated formula will be necessary is because an increasing number of Democrats do not believe that Hillary Clinton can win, and think that Republicans are voting for her in primaries because she is so unpopular (and therefore extremely beatable):
The Los Angeles Times looks at the superdelegates’ dilemma involving their own
re-election. "One blunt question underscored how much lawmakers' thinking is
shaped not just by high-minded reflection about who would make the best
president, but by the cold-eyed political assessment: What does it mean to me?
Rep. Heath Shuler (D-N.C.), a freshman from a district that President Bush won
in 2004 by 14 percentage points, asked Clinton to address concerns that in
conservative districts like his she would not be ‘helpful’ at the top of the
ticket, Pa. frosh Dem Rep. Jason Altmire recalled. Clinton responded by pointing
to her success in GOP precincts in the New York and Arkansas primaries as
evidence that the more people know her, the more support she draws -- even from
”Republicans often seem to be rooting for Clinton because they believe she will be a bigger liability than Obama -- both in the
presidential campaign and in congressional races. That is why Altmire fears that
a Clinton nomination would energize conservatives -- not just in his district,
but nationwide -- who otherwise would be lukewarm about McCain's candidacy."
There is little question that a Clinton nomination would energize conservatives, but it would be unwise and untimely for Democrats to believe that an Obama nomination would not. Truth be told, I think that many Democrats underestimate the degree to which Barack Obama is disliked among Republicans and strongly distrusted among "traditional" Democrats. Even the most optimistic polls show that in a head-to-head matchup with John McCain nationally, Barack Obama's lead is within the margin of error, and that effectively means that it does not exist. Even if one were to take polls at face value and presume that Obama does have a slight lead over McCain (the April 2nd aggregate now shows McCain as the leader over Obama), John McCain has the advantage of not having to engage in a nomination fight at this point in the campaign with an intra-party opponent, whereas Obama must spend valuable resources trying to fend off Hillary Clinton.
It's a long time until November, and the Democratic Party has yet to start its campaign, and at this rate they may not start it until September. Meanwhile, John McCain is already touring the country and campaigning for a General Election in which he does not yet have an opponent. Under those circumstances, it will be very easy for McCain to make up any lost polling ground long before the Democrats nominate Obama, assuming the trends will dictate the nominee. With every passing day, John McCain becomes the candidate with the upper hand in this race.