- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 25, 2007

Democratic strategists say the bitter fight between Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama could undermine their party’s bid to win back the White House if it continues.

“I think the Democrats in general, particularly party activists and leaders, do not want to see a knife fight between these two which results in blood all over the Democrats. We want a strong nominee coming out of this primary process, not one that is beaten and bloodied,” said Bud Jackson, a Democratic media adviser.

That view summed up what many Democrats were thinking last week when the front-runners were trading political blows through their spokesmen after movie mogul David Geffen, a former Clinton ally who is now backing Mr. Obama, called Mrs. Clinton a disingenuous, “incredibly polarizing figure” who isn’t electable and appeared to allude to her husband’s past infidelity.

It was the first skirmish of the presidential election cycle, which triggered a storm of media attention on the nightly news and on the front pages of the nation’s newspapers and which campaign pollsters say has already had a negative effect on both of the candidates.

“This story has legs. The opening kickoff has been made. Clinton’s the kicker and Obama’s the receiver, who kicked back. What’s clear is that it’s going to be nasty from here on, which doesn’t help the Democrats,” said independent pollster John Zogby.

“At this stage, anything that threatens party unity or alienates Democrats or annoys swing voters can hurt. So in the case of Hillary, anything that reminds swing voters of the darker side of the Clintons hurts. And anything that suggests that Obama is not ‘Clean Gene,’ meaning ‘I’m not going to run on the “audacity of hope,” but I’m going to kick you if you kick me,’ can hurt,” Mr. Zogby said.

By late last week, the Clinton-Obama fight was still reverberating in the press, which up until now has had thin gruel to write about in the Democrats’ campaign. The New York Times said in a front-page article Friday that the New York senator’s effort to identify Mr. Obama with Mr. Geffen’s attack “was widely viewed among Democrats as carrying some cost to Mrs. Clinton.”

Her campaign’s broadside against her chief rival for the nomination was “a sharp reminder of Clinton family history that has led some Democrats to believe Mrs. Clinton cannot win a general election,” the Times said.

Whoever won the first round in their nominating fight, many Democrats were clearly uncomfortable with the intensity of their exchange.

“The Democrats have momentum going their way, an unpopular president waging a misguided war, and now they’re pointing fingers at each other,” said Chris Redfern, the Ohio Democratic chairman. “At the end of the day, no one’s paying any attention to this, but they need to clean it up, make nice with each other and get to work.”

Other Democrats, though, saw this as nothing more than the usual political rough-and-tumble of a presidential campaign and thought the story was being overplayed.

“I think we are going to have a spirited debate [over who the party should nominate], and that is going to be uplifting and at times rough. This is the nature of politics,” said Simon Rosenberg, president of the New Democrat Network.

Despite his concern about how voters perceived the latest fight between the two party leaders, even Mr. Jackson, the media adviser, called it “a minor speed bump” on the road to next January’s primaries and caucuses. “I think Obama overreacted a little bit, but this is inside baseball. It only becomes an issue if we see a pattern develop,” he said.

One rival for the Democratic nomination suggested yesterday that reporters were making too much of the Obama-Clinton dust-up.

“Oh, I think it’s a bunch of silliness,” former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards said on CBS’ “Face the Nation.”

“I was in New Hampshire yesterday. I met probably over a thousand New Hampshire primary voters in the course of having a bunch of house parties. And you’d be shocked to hear the only people who asked me about this were reporters,” Mr. Edwards said. “I didn’t have a single New Hampshire voter ask me about this.”

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide