Tuesday, April 01, 2008

The primaries and November

Speculation about whether the Democrats lengthy primary fight will impact their chances in November has hit the Democrats' flagship newspaper, The New York Times:

Robert Shrum, a longtime Democratic operative who wrote that speech for Mr. Kennedy, said a bitter extended primary challenge in itself did not doom the outcome.

“It’s not the going to the convention, it’s how sulfurous and negative this gets,” Mr. Shrum said of the Clinton-Obama battle.

“What would hurt is if we had three or four months of escalating negative attacks and a huge fight over Michigan and Florida,” Mr. Shrum said. “We could have a situation where we set gender and race against each other, and we could lose the unlosable election in the bonfire of the vanities.”

Some Democrats fear just such a trajectory.

“This contest will get even more contentious, and there will be more charges and countercharges,” Donna Brazile, who managed Al Gore’s campaign in 2000 and is neutral in this race, said after Mr. Clinton told Democrats last week to “saddle up.”

“People were excited; now they’re exhausted,” Ms. Brazile said. “In the beginning, they liked one candidate and respected the other; now they love one and hate the other.”

A Gallup poll last week found that as of March, 28 percent of Clinton backers would vote for Mr. McCain over Mr. Obama, and 19 percent of Obama supporters would vote for Mr. McCain over Mrs. Clinton.

The longer this goes on, the more likely it becomes that the Democrats will lose the General Election. The reason is not Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama by themselves, since these are people with the political experience to know that for the sake of their own futures they cannot take what happens in the campaign personally. It is those who are supporters and surrogates of either candidate that could doom the Democratic ticket.

Not only has this been one of the most divisive primary season that either party has seen in many years, but the Republican Party has managed to nominate a man who, while strongly disliked by many of us in the base of the GOP, is a very popular man with independents and certain Democrats. It should come as no surprise that many of these folks would consider voting for John McCain. If the Republican nominee had been a good Republican, this might not be as much of an issue-but this is John McCain, and a divided Democratic Party could mean that theunwinnable election becomes winnable for the Republicans.

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