Election 2008: Welcome to the Main Event

Photo Credit: New York Times

By Kevin Zwick
Staff Writer

With the Democratic race is so close, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are receiving most of the media attention, but believe it or not, that is not the best thing. While the two Democrats are beating each other senseless with attack ads, John McCain and the Republican National Committee are building their case against the Democrats for the November General Election.

If the Democratic primary season goes all the way to the Democratic Convention in August, it could cause serious damage to the Democratic Party, a party that six months ago looked invincible. But now, both Hillary and Barack are only a few percentage points ahead of Republican John McCain…yes Republican…the same party of George W Bush. How can this happen you ask?

The Democratic primary season has already gone on longer than predicted by pollsters and pundits, and is causing a fissure within the Democratic Party. Clinton has won states that, in the general election, have a large electoral vote count, which Pennsylvanian Governor Ed Rendell says proves she is the stronger candidate. One problem:  Barack Obama has a lead in number of states won, number of pledged delegates, and popular vote. The Democratic National Committee cannot choose a candidate when the race is this close and this is splitting the party wide open. A split might cause the pledged delegates to walk out of the convention if their candidate is not chosen. In a worst case scenario, the loyal supporters of each candidate might not vote if their candidate is not nominated.

John McCain and the Republican National Committee do not mind it when the two Democratic candidates are going for each other’s jugulars and continue to split their party down the middle.

As the Democrats expose each other’s weaknesses in the never-ending primary battle, they have to be careful not to give the Republicans too much ammunition for the general election. That is a problem with the “scorched earth” tactic, which is when one candidate will use any tactic from fear mongering to questioning the other candidates patriotism in order to gain votes. This tactic worked well for the Clinton campaign in the Texas and Ohio primaries. Barack’s problem is that he has talked down against this brand of politics, but when turning the other cheek costs him primary victories, he has to figure out a different approach to combating the scorched earth tactic.

Standing idly by when someone trash talks his beliefs is not a winning strategy in national politics: he has to hit back and keep her in check. Obama must prove that he can take shots from people in his own party because her comments are love taps compared to the haymakers John McCain and the RNC can throw at him.

But besides the mudslinging and all the boxing references is the question of what wins the candidacy, delegates or states.  Obama is ahead in the delegate count, and the number of states won, but Clinton has won states that carry higher electoral votes in the general election. But there is the issue of the popular vote in the primaries. Obama is ahead in the popular vote but if the Democratic National Committee chooses Clinton because she shows strength in states that have higher electoral votes, then the voters that went to the polls for Obama might feel that their vote did not matter.  This is a point that Clinton supporters like Clinton Senior Advisor Kiki McLean, has been pushing on CNN’s Larry King Live. But the numbers in primaries where Democrats and Republicans ran on the same day, the numbers have shown the Democrats to lead in the popular vote by almost triple in large states, such as Virginia. This large turnout in the Democratic Party has been due in a large part to the importance of this election and a large youth turnout. But if the decision for a nominee comes down to the superdelegates at the Democratic Convention, then voters might be able to pay that slug-fest on Pay-Per-View.