Wednesday, April 23, 2008

A Big Win for McCain

Lost in the dueling, grueling battle between Clinton and Obama is the fact that John McCain handily won the Republican side in the Pennsylvania contest. Of course, he's also the elephant in the room on the democratic side, emerging as the real winner of the Democratic primary.

Clinton certainly chalked up a 10 point victory (much more than I would have expected), but what does she have to show for it? Her chances of prevailing in the end are still extremely slim. Besides confirming that negative campaigning works, it shows that she has been able to divide the party mightily.

In addition to her real constituency, Clinton has managed to garner the votes of the gun-lovers, the pro-life democrats and the racists. So, kudos to you Hillary! Of course, many of these same people will vote for McCain in the fall, whether the democratic candidate is Hillary or Obama, because his views are closer to their values than either of the democrats.

And then there are the Hillary Haters. Those who hate Hillary passionately and those who hate on behalf of Hillary with equal passion. It seems that many zealous supporters of Hillary or Obama have hardened their positions, so much so that they are less likely to support the ultimate winner if it is not the candidate of their choice. A number of my favorite bloggers, for example, have taken sides and seem to be relentless in skewering the opponent.

As the New York Times notes, in Clinton Outduels Obama in Primary:

Mrs. Clinton’s margin was probably not sufficient to fundamentally alter the dynamics of the race, which continued to favor an eventual victory for Mr. Obama. But it made clear that the contest will go on at least a few weeks, if not more. And it served to underline the concerns about Mr. Obama’s strengths as a general election candidate. Exit polls again highlighted the racial, economic, sex and values divisions within the party.

To take one example, only 60 percent of Democratic Catholic voters said they would vote for Mr. Obama in a general election; 21 percent said they would vote for Mr. McCain, exit polls show.

“This is exactly what I was afraid was going to happen,” said Gov. Phil Bredesen of Tennessee, a Democrat who has not endorsed anyone in the race. “They are going to just keep standing there and pounding each other and bloodying each other, and no one is winning. It underlines the need to find some way to bring this to conclusion.”

The Democratic Party, so energized and optimistic just a few months ago, thus finds itself in a position few would have expected: a nomination battle unresolved, with two candidates engaged in increasingly damaging attacks. At a time when the Democratic Party would dearly like to turn its attention to Mr. McCain, it now faces continued damage to the images of both Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Obama.

I realize a win is a win, in Hillary Clinton's view of the world, which is true. But some wins may be more costly than others, especially if you lose the war. This may cost Clinton more than she bargained for in the long run, whether she is able to pull it off or not. The NYTimes' editorial, in what has been labeled as an un-endoresement of sorts, The Low Road to Victory, adds:

The Pennsylvania campaign, which produced yet another inconclusive result on Tuesday, was even meaner, more vacuous, more desperate, and more filled with pandering than the mean, vacuous, desperate, pander-filled contests that preceded it.

Voters are getting tired of it; it is demeaning the political process; and it does not work. It is past time for Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton to acknowledge that the negativity, for which she is mostly responsible, does nothing but harm to her, her opponent, her party and the 2008 election.
Finally, Dick Polman provided the best parting words, Take these candidates, please!:
Six weeks of bowling and Bittergate and Pastorgate and nonexistent Bosnian snipers....and for what? The Pennsylvania results have essentially changed nothing. There is seemingly no cure for the chronic Democratic migraine - and the fear, among so many members, that they are tearing themselves asunder.

Memo to the voters of Indiana and North Carolina: Take these candidates, please!

(Cartoon via Tom Toles, NYTimes)

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