Thursday, March 27, 2008

Democratic Convention 2008 Politics

By Brian C. Mooney
Globe Staff / March 27, 2008

Some Democratic Party leaders are growing more concerned that the protracted, caustic fight for the presidential nomination will cripple the eventual nominee, and there are new signs they have reason to worry.

More party leaders are saying that the increasingly personal crossfire between the Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama campaigns serves only to write the script for Republican ads in the fall and to give John McCain, the presumptive GOP nominee, a head start in framing his candidacy.

While the Democrats have been arguing almost daily the past two weeks about each other's electability and integrity, McCain has visited Iraq and other countries in the Middle East and Europe, received the blessing Tuesday of Nancy Reagan, and yesterday delivered a sweeping address on foreign policy.
"There's nothing like a two-way Democrat suicide pact to make it easy for McCain to go off on a grand statesman tour," Mike Murphy, a Republican strategist who once worked for McCain, said yesterday.

A Gallup poll released yesterday indicated that 28 percent of Democrats supporting Clinton said they would vote for McCain over Obama in November, while 19 percent of Obama's backers said they would vote for McCain over Clinton.

Polls suggest that McCain is even or has a narrow lead over both Democrats, and CNN polls also indicate increasing unrest in the Democratic Party. The percentage of Clinton voters who say they would be upset if Obama received the nomination has jumped from 35 percent in January to 51 percent this month, while the percentage of Obama supporters who say they would be upset if Clinton got the nod has risen from 26 percent to 41 percent.
Some Democratic Party leaders, behind the scenes and now more often in public, are pushing for a resolution before the convention.

Governor Phil Bredesen of Tennessee went on CNN and MSNBC yesterday to promote his proposal for a June gathering of superdelegates, nearly 800 elected officials and party leaders, to declare their intentions after the final primaries, on June 3, and settle the nominee before the party convention in late August.

"Things have gotten very bitter; it's very different than it was 90 days ago when Democrats were saying, 'Isn't it wonderful we have two great candidates,' " said Bredesen, a moderate who describes himself as "genuinely uncommitted" in the Obama-Clinton fight. His fear is that if the candidates continue to slug it out all the way to the convention floor in Denver, it will leave the party divided and exhausted less than 10 weeks before the Nov. 4 election.
Obama told reporters last night that he was open to Bredesen's plan. "I think giving whoever the nominee is two or three months to pivot into the general election would be extremely helpful," he said.
Howard Dean, chairman of the Democratic National Committee, is cool to the idea of a June summit of superdelegates, but Bredesen said yesterday that he will continue to try to build support for the proposal, including this weekend at a policy conference that will be attended by about a dozen Democratic governors.
In an interview with the Globe, Bredesen said he remains open to other suggestions, however, "Most of the other suggestions seem to be, 'Let's cross our fingers and hope for the best,' " he said. "Hope is not a strategy."

Clinton's campaign has been under pressure from some Obama partisans, citing his lead in delegates, total votes, and fund-raising, to give up because she has almost no chance of overtaking him in the contest for pledged delegates. With 10 contests remaining until June 3, Clinton trails Obama by 122 delegates, according to the Associated Press tally.

Clinton holds an edge among the more than half of all superdelegates who have declared their allegiance. The Clinton campaign, however, continues to send strong signals that it will not fold. Clinton said this week that voters do not want to "shut this race down."

Senator Clinton's chief surrogate, her husband, former president Bill Clinton, told voters in West Virginia yesterday, "My family's not big on quitting." He also downplayed concern over the campaign's tone, saying: "Let's just saddle up and have an argument. What's the matter with that?"

Also, some major Democratic fund-raisers who support Clinton sent a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi chiding her for publicly suggesting that the superdelegates should follow the will of the voters as reflected in pledged delegates and the popular vote - two measures on which Clinton faces long odds to catch up.

In the past two presidential elections, Al Gore and John F. Kerry had locked up the Democratic nomination by this month, quickly united the party, and went on to lose general election cliffhangers to George W. Bush.

Despite its bitterness, the history-making Obama-Clinton contest continues to break records for new voter registration, turnout, and fund-raising, giving some Democrats hope that they will capture the White House.

That enthusiasm could be a double-edged sword, however, because of the emotional involvement of voters who want either Clinton to become the first woman nominated by a major party or Obama to become the first African-American to be nominated.

The risk of alienating segments of the losing candidate's constituencies was evident in interviews this week with voters in Pennsylvania, where Democratic registration has spiked in advance of the state's primary on April 22.
"Every blue-collar person I talk to said if Obama gets the nomination they'll vote for John McCain - every one, female or male," said Charles J. Eck, 67, a retired printing shop employee in South Philadelphia.

But Obama supporter Chelsa Wagner, a state representative whose district includes part of Pittsburgh, fears that if Obama is not the nominee, many young voters drawn by him will become disillusioned. "I would guess they would be unwilling to participate, but some say they would be a protest vote for McCain - and I don't think they know anything about him," she said.
Two veteran Democratic operatives, however, cited the unprecedented interest in the contest and predicted the party would close ranks quickly, even if the fight goes to the convention. Both had key roles in past campaigns that had to unite the party after less intense nomination fights.
"Democrats really want to win, and it creates energy and momentum to quickly button things up and focus on the fall," said one of them, Michael Feldman, senior adviser to Gore's campaign in 2000.

Of the fears that the party will fracture, Mary Beth Cahill, who managed Kerry's campaign, said: "I don't buy it at all. . . . I think the hunger on the Democratic side to get the White House back and put the country back on track is impossible to overstate."
Sasha Issenberg of the Globe staff contributed to this report.

© Copyright 2008 Globe Newspaper Company.


scott said...

obama was one of the leaders of the million man march with farrakhan and al sharpton.

bev said...

No, this will not go on that long. Hillary is going to knock Obama out of the ring and then he will drop out. Women are getting organized, so watch out misogynists. Serves you well for putting up somebody who is a liar, corrupt and has friends like my enemies.