Saturday, March 08, 2008

McCain Behind the 8 Ball?

The Politico reports that having secured his party's nomination while the Democrats continue to fight over theirs, John McCain is in big trouble:

Unlike the Republicans, the Democrats do know who they are running against. The Democratic National Committee is already firing out faxes attacking McCain and the party’s outside allies are already putting the finishing touches on their attack ads.

When not picking on each other, Obama and Clinton are also sending rockets McCain’s way.

That incoming fire could be particularly threatening to McCain for several reasons.

First, Clinton and Obama have very strong incentives to go after him. If either can convince their own primary voters that they have the best shot at beating him in the general election, the odds of winning the primary go up.

Their barbs and criticisms carry extra power, as well, these days because they are picked up by the national press corps still tracking the Democratic contest — rather than McCain’s quiet, internal reorganization at his Virginia headquarters.

Add to that, McCain can’t do much to defend himself in the short term because he ended the primary pretty much the way Kerry did four years ago: flat broke...

The explosive fundraising strength shown by both Democratic candidates shows no sign of abating, which means the victor will turn to the general election phase of the race with a presumably unified and enormous list of potential givers, notes Anthony Corrado, an expert on campaign finance.

OK, this is all true. But would it somehow be better if one of the two Democrats had already clinched the nomination? Then he or she would be unifying the party, expanding an already sizable cash advantage, and focusing fire on a bankrupt and under-staffed McCain. I suppose then McCain would have the advantage of additional media attention to both his reorganizing and his attacks, but is it remotely conceivable that would be a better situation for him?

Cummings points to this piece which lays out the challenges for Democrats.

Obama’s failure to win Ohio and Texas and lock down the nomination — combined with Clinton’s newly defensible decision to press on despite a deficit in delegates — virtually guarantees Democrats a draining contest that will give Republicans a months-long head-start on the general election.

It will heighten racial, ethnic, gender, and class divisions already on stark display, raise awkward questions about the legitimacy of the nominating process, and inflict potentially lasting wounds on the eventual winner...

Clinton advisers say Obama was also hurt by media attention to his murky connections to Tony Rezko, a former Obama fundraiser now on trial in Chicago on corruption charges. The Clinton campaign endlessly prodded reporters to insist that the Obama campaign provide answers to the many mysteries about the relationship.

This success will embolden Clinton for more of the same in Pennsylvania.

Obama, in turn, will step up his attacks on her appeal with independents and swing voters, her judgment in backing the Iraq War, and her attachment to "old politics” of the 1990s.

Add to that the fact that both Democrats will be spending boatloads of money to desrtoy each other, rather than stockpiling it. Is there any doubt that McCain would be far worse off if the Democratic nomination was settled?

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