Inside Politics

Divided party

“Give the media credit for getting the political story line right this election. Now if only they’d applied it to the correct party,” Wall Street Journal columnist Kimberley A. Strassel writes.

“Division, disunity, the potential end of an era — these were the watchwords for the GOP in 2008. The election was supposed to break the Republican Party, maybe even bring an end to the Reagan coalition,” the writer said.

Mitt Romney’s withdrawal [Thursday] instead ends a spirited GOP debate. John McCain faces a big challenge unifying and rallying his base, but his Super Tuesday wins show he’s making some progress. Mr. Romney’s gracious withdrawal, and the senator’s faultless address [Thursday] to the Conservative Political Action Conference, should help. It’s also notable that Mr. McCain’s support, such as it is, is coming from all three legs of that old Reagan stool — defense hawks, fiscal conservatives and values voters.

“The party with a meat cleaver down its middle is the Democrats. That was the takeaway of Tuesday’s exit polls, which magnified what have become yawning divisions. Hillary Clinton gets women; Barack Obama gets men. Mrs. Clinton gets Hispanics; Mr. Obama, blacks. Mrs. Clinton gets blue-collar workers; Mr. Obama higher-income voters. Mrs. Clinton gets older citizens; Mr. Obama younger ones. …

“This division is the Democrats’ new problem, bigger than (and exacerbated by) the prospect of a long primary fight. They are waging a war on personality, identity and party — an ugly battle that is splitting voters into emotional or identity camps. Party leaders are now privately worrying that the ultimate nominee will not be able to heal the breaches.”

Hillary’s strength

“Republicans and Barack Obama are far apart ideologically, but they have a common enemy: Hillary Clinton. This explains why many Republicans look kindly on Obama’s bid for the Democratic presidential nomination,” Fred Barnes writes in the Weekly Standard.

“Republicans have two goals in the 2008 race. One is to retain the presidency. The other is to deny the Clintons — Hillary and Bill — another four (or eight) years in the White House,” Mr. Barnes said.

“Thwarting the Clintons won’t be easy. Hillary Clinton is nowhere near as close to losing the Democratic nomination as many in the political community believe. It’s true she doesn’t inspire. In debates, she constantly flashes a fake smile and, when unnerved, unleashes a contrived laugh — aka, the cackle. She attracts far smaller and considerably less enthusiastic crowds than Obama does. And his fundraising now dwarfs hers.

“But Clinton has already survived two crushing defeats, first in Iowa, then in South Carolina, only to rise again on Super Tuesday with a string of lopsided victories in blue states the Democratic nominee must carry in November. Obama did better in red states that are less important to Democrats in a general election.

“For all her unattractiveness as a candidate, Clinton has put together an impressive, and seemingly durable, coalition of women, seniors, Hispanics, and the less-than-wealthy. In the California primary last week, she lost the white vote to Obama by 49 percent to 43 percent, yet won the state in a near-landslide: 52 percent to 42 percent.”

Hillary’s weakness

“What if a presidential candidate held what she billed as ‘the largest, most interactive town hall in political history’ on national television, and no one noticed?” New York Times columnist Frank Rich writes.

“The untold story in the run-up to Super Tuesday wasHillary Clinton‘s elaborate live prime-time special the night before the vote. Presiding from a studio in New York, the candidate took questions from audiences in 21 other cities. She had plugged the event four days earlier in the last gasp of her debate with Barack Obama and paid a small fortune for it: an hour of time on the Hallmark Channel plus satellite TV hookups for the assemblies of supporters stretching from coast to coast,” Mr. Rich said.

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