Up until now, I’ve been in the “the more the merrier” camp on the primaries. So long as things don’t get too nasty, I’ve figured that the ongoing campaign will be good for the Democrats. Obama, for example, has been steadily improving his debating skills, and both candidates are building grassroots organizations in primary states that will be battlegrounds in the general election.
Well, I am now officially off the bus. My sense is that the nastiness between the two campaigns is starting to do real damage.
And what’s troubling, of course, is that the chances of this ending anytime soon are starting to look iffy at best. While only a fool would put too much faith in polls at this point, the trend the last few days seems definitely pro-Clinton in both Ohio and Texas, but especially in Ohio.
So it comes down to a contest between the clear trend of the polls and Obama’s history of outperforming them.
Of course, even if Clinton does win the popular vote in both Ohio and Texas, she’s unlikely to come close to catching Obama in committed delegates. In fact, as many other people have noted, the math makes it hard to see how she can ever catch up.
An Ohio-Texas sweep would, however, give her bragging rights to the momentum. Then it’s off to Pennsylvania — which, of course, means almost two more months of this crap, at a minimum.
And by the way, a Clinton victory in both primaries wouldn’t necessarily represent a sea change sweeping her into office. More likely, I think, it would be a product of what I’ve previously described as political pre-wedding jitters. “Democrats like both of these candidates. Even more importantly, however, we’re desperate to win this time. We don’t want to fu*k it up again. Thus, any time we get close to sealing the deal, as happened before New Hampshire, there’s a tendency to step back and whisper, ‘but on the other hand . . .’”
The attacks on Obama that have been coming from both sides — Clinton and McCain — may well be feeding these concerns. But there’s an important distinction to be made. To the extent some Democrats may be getting a little nervous about Obama, it isn’t because the thought of him being president scares them. No, the vast majority of Democrats are completely comfortable with having Obama be the one who takes that call at 3:00 in the morning. If Obama stumbles, it will be because, now that he’s under constant attack, people are starting to worry about his electability.
But even if Clinton could pull off a twofer today (which is far from assured, and probably even far from likely), Obama’s armies wouldn’t desert him, and my guess is he’d come roaring back. Clinton has shown the ability to break Obama’s surges just in the nick of time in the past. She’s never, however, shown any ability to build one of her own.
Unfortunately, whoever won under that scenario, wouldn’t do so until the bitter — and I mean bitter — end.
And that’s starting to scare the hell out of me.
Update: This poll tends to support the idea that rank and file Democrats still aren’t comfortable with that “commitment thing.”