The Democrats’ dilemma over choosing a nominee might just be John McCain’s ace in the hole.
The highly publicised description of Hillary Clinton as “a monster” capable of “stooping to anything” to win by Barack Obama foreign policy advisor Samantha Powers merely underscores the intensity of the growing discord between Clinton and Obama supporters as the race for the Democratic presidential nomination lumbers forward.
Moreover, it is perhaps a powerful omen of the great divide that the Democratic Party’s eventual nominee will have to bridge in order to win the general election come November.
The fact of the matter is that Democrats are deeply split over who they want to represent them in a national race against John McCain.
Go online and peruse any political blog or major news outlet website, and you will find a barrage of heated, vicious and intensely personal comments following any story of which Senator Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama are the subject.
Without so much as a hand from the Republicans, Democrats are quite literally eating each other alive.
Further, according to a recent Fox News tally, a scant 3,000 votes separate Senator Hillary Clinton and Senator Barack Obama in terms of the popular vote if you take into account the results from Florida and Michigan.
Though Barack Obama leads in this popular vote tally, these numbers hardly represent a mandate from Democratic voters for either candidate.
And therein lies the problem.
While the Obama campaign confidently claims the lead in both pledged delegates and the popular vote, the Clinton campaign argues that they have won the “big” states, including pivotal prizes like Ohio and Florida, which are key to winning any general election.
Still, there can be no getting around the reality that, at this point, neither candidate can win the necessary 2,024 delegates needed to secure the Democratic nomination outright, which will necessarily leave the final decision about the party’s nominee in the hands of anxious superdelegates.
Ultimately, no matter which candidate the Democratic superdelegates choose, the party will likely face serious repercussions that may weigh heavily in John McCain’s favour.
One of the most under-reported stories of this campaign season has been the loyalty of Hillary Clinton’s supporters.
A recent survey conducted by the Pew Research Centre for the People and the Press found that 20% of white Democratic voters would vote for McCain if Obama is the Democratic nominee.
That is twice the percentage of white Democrats who say they would support McCain in a Clinton-McCain matchup.
Similarly, older Democrats (ages 65 and older), lower-income and less educated Democrats, who form the party’s core, also would support McCain at higher levels if Obama rather than Clinton is the party’s nominee.
Add to these statistics Hillary Clinton’s overwhelming support from the Latino and Asian communities across the board and you have a situation that could seal the Dems fate in crucial swing states should they choose Barack Obama as their nominee.
Conversely, there can be no denying the energy that Barack Obama has brought to the Democratic Party.
The Obama campaign has not only raised money in record amounts, it has brought new voters to the political process in massive numbers and earned the favor of Independent voters and Republicans alike.
Additionally, Obama has shown vital signs of support in traditionally ‘Red’ states, though, in all fairness, it remains to be seen whether that support will be strong enough to overcome the stranglehold that Republicans have held on voters in those states in recent elections.
Still, the Democratic Party can ill afford to disenfranchise what may very well be the future of the party, which could happen if Hillary Clinton is the nominee.
Equally confounding for the Dems is the Pew Research Centre’s finding that Hillary Clinton “fares nearly as well as Obama in a head-to-head matchup with McCain,” but “runs better than Obama among self-described Democrats in the general election test, although Obama fares better than Clinton among independents.”
How’s that for a classic no-win scenario?
No matter how you cut it, the great Democratic divide of 2008 will net John McCain a tidy sum of voters who just one year ago might never have expected to be voting for a Republican on November 4th.
With Barack Obama as the nominee, there is a substantial risk that a significant portion of the Democratic base, particularly older and middle-class voters in states like Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania, will swing their votes McCain’s way.
On the flip side, with Hillary Clinton as the nominee, younger voters and Independents may feel their only choice is to vote for the Republican nominee or, even worse, for Ralph Nader or not at all – still a gain for John McCain.
After over a year and a half of campaigning and hundreds of millions of dollars raised and with two of the strongest potential nominees in recent memory, the Democrats seem once again on track to, as Ron Reagan Jr. recently commented on CNN, “Snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.”
Good news for John McCain and the Republicans on Capitol Hill who I’m sure are secretly behind closed doors dancing a jig at their unexpected good fortune.