Assessing Democratic Damage
In yesterday’s Washington Post, David Broder provides a useful overview of the current state of the argument over whether the Democratic nomination contest between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama is damaging the party’s chances of recapturing the White House in November. To paraphrase Broder, party elites are concerned about damage, but rank and file voters want the contest to continue, especially if the alternative is for their candidate to drop out of the race, and all of the stuff being dredged up by the two campaigns will be used by the Republican Party to John McCain’s advantage in November.
While this is a fairly accurate assessment of where the Democrats are right now, I am still not convinced that ending the contest early would necessarily make all that much difference for the general election. There will be huge amounts of opposition research by Republicans in the fall, irrespective of what Clinton and Obama throw at each other now. And, although McCain currently fares well against both Clinton and Obama in national polls (in contrast to the generic ballot), once the Democratic nominee is chosen, you will see the party quickly pivot to a sustained attack on McCain, and those numbers will likely change. This is not to say that McCain won’t win, but my guess is that regardless of whether the Democratic pivot occurs in May or July, October in Pennsylvania will feel very different politically than does April.

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