- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 27, 2008

Political tension between Sens. Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton is inflaming Democrats’ emotions as it spills over into the electorate with more voters threatening to defect from the party should their candidate lose the presidential nomination.

A Gallup Poll released yesterday showed that 28 percent of Clinton supporters would back Republican nominee Sen. John McCain of Arizona in the general election should the former first lady not get the Democratic nomination.

“This suggests that some Clinton supporters are so strongly opposed to Obama (or so loyal to Clinton) that they would go so far as to vote for the ‘other’ party’s candidate next November if Obama is the Democratic nominee,” Gallup wrote in its analysis, adding, “the continuing and sometimes fractious Democratic nomination fight could have a negative impact for the Democratic Party.”

Among Obama supporters in the poll, 19 percent would vote for Mr. McCain should Mrs. Clinton, of New York, be the nominee. The news benefits the Republican senator, who exchanged barbs with Mr. Obama yesterday about the economy.

“John McCain ought to be a fire bell for the Democratic Party to say we cannot let this thing go on,” Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen, a Democrat, told The Washington Times. “We need to have a nominee and get on with running against John McCain.”

But Roger Salazar, a spokesman for the California Democratic Party, said the long race is “actually good” for the candidates because each will be “thoroughly vetted.”

“We’re going to have a nominee prior to the convention,” he predicted. “A lot of this nervousness is to be expected, but in the long run, I don’t think Democrats are going to stomach pulling the lever for a Republican candidate.”

Chris Bowers’ Blue Majority online grass-roots fundraising group endorsed Mr. Obama, of Illinois, yesterday, saying a major reason was to end the infighting.

“Hillary Clinton’s only path to the nomination is through the convention in late August, and also through a intra-partisan civil war,” Mr. Bowers wrote at OpenLeft.com. “In other words, Clinton’s path to the nomination renders her unelectable in the general. There simply won’t be enough time to heal the party and define John McCain.”

A Rasmussen Reports poll released yesterday showed 22 percent of voters said Mrs. Clinton should drop out of the race, and an identical percentage of voters think Mr. Obama should drop out. The poll also showed 62 percent want both candidates to remain in the race.

Rasmussen polls taken recently also show Mr. McCain has a seven-point lead over Mrs. Clinton and a 10-point lead over Mr. Obama, who blasted the Republican for his economic policy while campaigning in North Carolina yesterday.

“We can’t afford another four years of Bush economics,” said Mr. Obama, labeling the Republican as only offering help for the wealthy. In response, the McCain campaign released a statement calling the remarks “blatant mischaracterizations” and a smear designed to deflect from Mr. Obama wanting to raise taxes.

The Clinton and Obama camps have been trading increasingly nasty charges about which candidate is lying or trying to disenfranchise voters, and there are no signs that will let up before Pennsylvania Democrats head to the polls April 22 in the next contest.

Once that primary is decided, the final nine contests will play out over six weeks and even then it will probably be mathematically impossible for either candidate to earn the nomination without the support of Democratic superdelegates — who are party activists, state and local officials and members of Congress.

Mr. Bredesen is so worried the summer will drag on with backroom fights to win over the undecided superdelegates that he is urging the national party to get involved and bring the nomination to a close with an unprecedented superdelegates election.

Mr. Bredesen, who is staying neutral, told The Times a separate superdelegate vote — an idea first floated by bloggers last month — would determine the nominee in June and help Democrats rally to battle Mr. McCain.

“The party needs to take some leadership here,” he said, adding that Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean has not yet shown support for the idea. “We have a problem in our party, there”s no question about it.”

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada told the Las Vegas Review-Journal recently it would be “easy” to resolve the Democratic race before the August convention in Denver and that he has been speaking with Mr. Dean.

“It will be done. Things are being done,” he said.

In another example of Democrats’ raw nerves, several prominent Clinton fundraisers sent a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California, blasting her for saying the superdelegates should support the candidate with the most pledged delegates won in state contests, calling that an “untenable position.”

The letter, first obtained by political blog Talking Points Memo and dismissed by the Obama campaign as “inappropriate,” also raises a threat by mentioning they are all “strong supporters of the [Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee],” the House Democrats’ fundraising arm.

“None of us should make declarative statements that diminish the importance of … [the] voices and … votes [of Democrats who haven’t voted yet]. We are writing to say we believe your remarks on ABC … did just that,” the Clinton supporters told Mrs. Pelosi, the nation’s top-ranking Democrat. “We appreciate your activities in support of the Democratic Party and your leadership role in the party and hope you will be responsive to some of your major enthusiastic supporters.”

DEMOCRATS FOR MCCAIN Many Democratic voters have such fervent support for their favorite presidential candidate they would vote for Sen. John McCain in November if their choice doesn’t win the party nod. 28 percent of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton’s supporters said they would vote for Mr. McCain if Sen. Barack Obama wins the nomination. 19 percent of Mr. Obama’s voters said they would vote for Mr. McCain if Mrs. Clinton wins the nomination. Source: Gallup Poll of 6,657 Democratic voters via telephone from March 7 to 22 22 percent of Democratic voters said Mrs. Clinton should drop out of the race. 22 percent of Democratic voters said Mr. Obama should drop out of the race. Source: Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of 800 likely voters conducted March 24 and 25

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