How deep is the hole the Democrats have dug for themselves in this primary season? And will they be able to crawl out of it in time?
In a direct matchup Hillary Clinton leads Barack Obama by 49% to 43% (error margin +/- 4%). This is a bit surprising if you look at the rest of the numbers, however, McCain/Clinton (46% to 39%) is a decisive lead for the Republican and McCain/Obama (44% to 42%) is within the error margin and therefore can be considered as a tie. The difference is still even more pronounced, when you look at who is the most likeable candidate. Barack Obama is liked or somewhat liked by 68% of the polled, Hillary Clinton is liked or somewhat liked by 48% and disliked by 47% and John McCain is liked a lot or somewhat by 61% and disliked by 23%. These numbers may well have to do with the credibility the candidates have. 57% think John McCain says what he thinks as opposed to 43% who think he says what people want to hear. Look at the numbers for Barack Obama. 44% say, he says what he believes and 56% believe he says what people want to hear. Hillary Clinton’s numbers are even worse, 29% reckon she says what she believes and 81% feel they are being told what they wanted to hear. When it comes to whether people have a favourable, unfavourable opinion of the candidates, Barack Obama leads with 55% to 42%, next comes John McCain 53% to 41% and last Hillary Clinton 40% to 57% as the only one with a majority voting “somewhat unfavourable” or “very unfavourable” (39%).
Democrats should really start to worry. While you can still make a case for Barack Obama for being the most likeable candidate about whom many people have a favourable opinion, John McCain is still a match for that, with numbers quite like Obama or only a little worse. As many people have a favourable opinion for McCain as for Obama, at least the numbers are within the margin of error and most problematic of all: Neither Clinton, nor Obama get anywhere near the credibility numbers John McCain has. Whatever the weaknesses of John McCain, he is as good a choice for voters as Barack Obama.
The Democratic Leadership sees this. There have been calls for Hillary Clinton to step back. Howard Dean has voiced his displeasure with the campaigns, too, or as The Times puts it bluntly: Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are told to shut up! Hillary Clinton, however, is unimpressed and vows to stay in the race.
The Guardian takes a look at how the Presidential “losers” are doing today. They look at McGovern, Dukakis, Ferraro and Mondale and, given the similarities between McGovern’s and Barack Obama’s campaigns, point out which deadfalls there might be still, even and especially, after the nomination is won.
Meanwhile Obama gets support from two leading Republicans. Condoleeza Rice hails him for his speech on race and Michael Gerson, President Bush’s former head speechwriter confesses to his fascination with Barack Obama to Daniel Finkelstein.
On top of this, Barack Obama has picked up an important endorsement for the upcoming primary, Senator Bob Casey of Pennsylvania.
To make a long post a little shorter: As long as Hillary Clinton stays in the race and the Democratic leadership does not take decisive action to bring this to a conclusion, there is no way to seriously tackle McCain. The Democrats can only win this, if they are able to overcome this virtual tie and replace it with a decisive lead for the Democratic candidate. For this Hillary Clinton has to go. Her weakness in most of the questions asked in the polls above is so obvious, that she simply cannot be the candidate. Unfortunately for her, she has gone too far already and the opportunity to gracefully bow out is long gone. If she goes on, what’s left of her reputation will be in the gutter, too.