Democrats Breaking Up over Obama-Clinton Fight?

Democrats Breaking Up over Obama-Clinton Fight? As the bitter nomination fight between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton continues, many of their supporters are threatening to take their ball and go home.

A new Rasmussen poll shows that 22% of Obama supporters think Clinton should drop out — and vice versa.

Meanwhile, party elders are publicly fretting about the impact all this will have in November. Tennessee Governor Phil Bredesen tells The Politico, “You’re going to spend this whole summer — and lots of money and time and effort — trying to convince people that whoever isn’t eventually nominated, isn’t electable. That’s a heck of a hole to climb out of come the first of September.”

While this anxiety is understandable — and probably healthier for a political party than overconfidence — it’s misplaced. The polls are just snapshots in time. Of course the supporters of the two candidates think the other one should quit. And, sure, they’re pretty steamed. Then again, supporters of Mitt Romney and Duncan Hunter and other also-rans were vowing that they’d never vote for McCain just a few weeks ago. Most of them have already come around.

Clinton supporters have a much weaker case than Obama supporters for demanding that the other candidate withdraw. After all, Obama’s ahead and at least has a mathematical shot of winning enough delegates going into the convention; Clinton can’t claim either of those things. But she’s got a clear path to victory — albeit a longshot path — under her party’s rules.

The only way it gets truly dicey is if the outcome is thought illegitimate. If Obama wins but the voters of Florida and Michigan feel that they’ve been “disenfranchised” or Clinton wins and is perceived to have “stolen” the nomination, it could be a problem. Those perceptions will likely not form, though, so long as the losing candidate gets behind the eventual nominee at the convention.

I can’t imagine either of Obama or Clinton will choose the sore loser route, even if a handful of their more ardent supporters do. Obama is young and will almost certainly get another shot at the brass ring if he’s denied this time. My sense is that this is Clinton’s last, best hope for the White House. But burning her bridges does no good and there are still plenty of other prizes, including Senate Majority Leader, that she could win if she plays her cards right. That won’t happen if she is thought to have handed the presidency to McCain in a year when it was the Democrats’ to lose.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. rodney dill says:

    FOOD FIGHT!

  2. Michael says:

    A new Gallup poll shows that 28% of Clinton backers and 19% of Obama’s claim they vote for John McCain if their candidate is not the nominee.

    Republicans didn’t follow through with similar threats when McCain was nominated, as you mentioned, so I doubt many Democrats will support McCain once he’s the target of attack by their party.

    You’re going to spend this whole summer — and lots of money and time and effort — trying to convince people that whoever isn’t eventually nominated, isn’t electable. That’s a heck of a hole to climb out of come the first of September.

    I would think that beating your opponent to get the nomination is a pretty clear indicator that you are “electable”, and that the opponent was wrong in that attack. A clever politician will use that frame to paint all the former opponent’s attacks as proven wrong, thereby denying a general election opponent their potency.

    The real damage this drawn out election is doing to the eventual Democratic candidate is denying them an opportunity to attack McCain full-force while he is hindered by public financing limits. By the time this gets resolved at convention, McCain will be able to start spending general-election money.

  3. Bill H says:

    I would think that beating your opponent to get the nomination is a pretty clear indicator that you are “electable”…

    Not if all you did was make your opponent more unelectable that you are.

  4. Michael says:

    Not if all you did was make your opponent more unelectable that you are.

    How so?

  5. Christopher says:

    Democrats fighting? As Kool and the Gang have said:

    Celebrate good times come on ! – Let’s celebrate
    -Celebrate good times come on ! – Let’s celebrate
    -There’s a party going on right here
    a celebration to last troughout the years.
    So bring your good times and your laughter
    too we’re gonna celebrate your party with you !
    Come on now- celebration-let’s all celebrate and have a good time!

  6. Steve Plunk says:

    Polls? Who needs stinking polls? Especially goofy ones like this. Once the emotions of the primary cool of every Dem is going to do what every Rep does and vote what they see as the lesser of evils. If ten percent defect to the other party I’ll eat my hat (which is easy since I don’t have one).

  7. just me says:

    While I think this fight will be a bitter one to the end, I think most of the “I will vote for McCain if my guy doesn’t win” stuff is just anger speaking.

    I suspect most of those saying they will vote for McCain will adjust to the actual nominee and likely vote for the democratic candidate.

    What the mushy middle does, that doesn’t affiliate with either party is the real question.

  8. legion says:

    I gotta agree with Steve on this one – I am 100% certain that the only people bringing up this tired old meme (and it seems to pop up again every 2-3 weeks) are Republican operatives trying desperately to inject some veneer of dissent into Dem discussions and help McCain by making him, as others have described “less unelectable” than the eventual Dem nominee.

  9. James Joyner says:

    the only people bringing up this tired old meme (and it seems to pop up again every 2-3 weeks) are Republican operatives

    Well, half the Netroots and numerous Democratic operatives are making the point. We’re agreed — as the post makes clear — that it’s ultimately nonsense.

  10. rodney dill says:

    I am 100% certain that the only people bringing up this tired old meme (and it seems to pop up again every 2-3 weeks) are Republican operatives

    I’m certain that ‘Republican operatives’ may possibly choose to bring this up, but Both Dem candidates sides have the most incentive to bring it up as a strong arm method to get others to vote their way. In the end it won’t change much, and most of the Democrats will still vote Democrat. I don’t see much Republican advantage in even bringing is up at this point.

  11. […] to Outside the Beltway, Rosemary’s Thoughts, Woman Honor Thyself, Right Truth, Adam’s Blog, The World […]

  12. jacksmith says:

    Comment in violation of site policies deleted.

    Those wishing to buy candidate advertising should send inquiries to otb@blogads.com

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  17. DL says:

    Jacksmith

    You cost me another bag of popcorn – it’s impossible to lose weight during this democratic meltdown.

  18. rodney dill says:

    Jacksmith, Uh… shouldn’t that be Jack’s myth

    (Ok, so its only mildly satisfying to comment back on spam)

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