Clinton victories in Texas and Ohio give McCain time to craft his message
While the Democrats battle, McCain can see which attacks are effective.
Hillary Rodham Clinton has given John McCain a big gift. By winning three of four primaries Tuesday, the New York senator has regained her footing and guaranteed that the Democratic presidential nomination battle will go on for weeks if not months.Skip to next paragraph
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Now Senator McCain, the presumed GOP nominee, can work to unify his party, raise money, and sharpen his message against the Democrats. As Senator Clinton and Barack Obama go after each other, McCain and his campaign will be taking careful note of which attacks work best.
"He'll listen to Clinton criticizing Obama and Obama criticizing Clinton, and he'll say that he agrees with both of them," says Darrell West, a political scientist at Brown University in Providence, R.I. The drawn-out nomination fight is "very damaging for the Democrats."
Still, the Democrats head toward the general election with some strong advantages, starting with the weakening economy and the unpopular war in Iraq, which McCain fervently backs. Democrats have also far surpassed the Republicans in fundraising and primary turnout, a sign of their eagerness to put a Democrat in the White House after eight years of George W. Bush. The danger for the Democrats is that their nomination battle could get ugly, leading supporters of the losing candidate to stay home in November.
Democrats argue that their nomination contest ensures that their nominee will be battle-tested for McCain in the fall. Moreover, voters appear to have the appetite for an extended race. According to an ABC News/Washington Post poll released Tuesday, some 67 percent of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents believed Clinton should stay in the race even if she won just Texas or just Ohio.
"I think voters would be resentful if the party called it off," says Linda Fowler, a government professor at Dartmouth College in Hanover, N.H., noting the high turnout in states unaccustomed to having a role in the primaries. "From the voters' perspective, all this intensive organizing at the grass-roots level is to the good."