Democrats' primary battle takes toll, but long view looks rosy
Clinton's positive rating has dropped, while Obama's image as a uniter has taken a hit.
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Still, he adds, "I'll bet you a dollar to your dime that the Democrats come back together and unite behind their candidate…. In the end, it's the big things that matter. People will vote on the economy and the war and their feelings about President Bush and their feelings about the two candidates, period."Skip to next paragraph
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Other factors weigh in the Democrats' favor for the fall: their large fundraising advantage and record-breaking turnout in primaries and caucuses, far surpassing Republican turnout when the GOP nomination race was still competitive.
The news this week that Democratic voter registration in Pennsylvania has surged to record levels, more than 4 million, compared with Republican registration of 3.2 million also bodes well for the Democrats. Some of those new "Democrats" are reportedly Republicans who plan to vote for Clinton to keep the Democratic nomination race going, but analysts say mischiefmakers are not a large part of the total.
The registration numbers out of Pennsylvania "may be the most underrated news of the week," says independent pollster Del Ali.
Nationwide, voter self-identification also shows a major tilt toward the Democrats. According to the Pew Research Center, voters who call themselves Democrats or independents who lean Democratic now outnumber Republicans and Republican leaners by 14 points – 51 percent to 37 percent. That's up from just a three-point gap four years ago. The wider voter-ID gap is a result of declining identification with the GOP, not a rise in identification with the Democrats.
Given the fertile territory for Democrats in this presidential election cycle, there's little wonder that Clinton is showing no inclination to drop out. Even though she trails Obama in the delegate count and overall popular vote in the nominating contests so far – and faces practically impossible mathematical odds in her efforts to catch him in the remaining contests – neither will Obama finish the primaries with the overall delegate count needed to secure the nomination. It will all come down to the superdelegates, the party leaders and elected officials who can back whomever they want.
Obama supporters have argued strenuously that superdelegates should back the "will of the people" and fall in behind the candidate with the most "pledged delegates" – those won in primaries and caucuses – which will almost certainly be Obama. Otherwise, they warn of a revolt by Obama supporters.
Clinton's supporters are "waiting for a miracle," says Tom Daschle, a former Senate Democratic majority leader and an Obama supporter. By staying in the race, he adds, Clinton is "creating a far greater problem for the Democrats this fall by dividing the party. This race is over for all intents and purposes."
Clinton, speaking to Time magazine on Tuesday, said she sees no evidence that her staying in the race is hurting the Democrats' chances in the fall. "You know, it is clear that there's a lot of excitement and energy in this campaign," she said. "The people who are supporting me sure don't want to see it over."