Long Is Good -- Well, Maybe

Posted: Apr 24, 2008 12:01 AM
Long Is Good -- Well, Maybe

Hillary Clinton's 9.4 percent win in Pennsylvania shows that she was right to stay in the race. Considering Obama's inability to win a big state even though he has been leading the delegate count, I wouldn't count Clinton out yet. Besides, conventional wisdom notwithstanding, a long primary just might serve the Democrats well.

Whoever wins the Democratic primary will be a giant slayer. In the meantime, the longer the primary lasts, the more the victor will have enjoyed weeks of copious news coverage, while GOP primary survivor John McCain serves as the official national afterthought. I'm starting to forget what he looks like.

Not everyone agrees that long is good, and only time will tell whether the long primary will hurt or help the Dems' eventual nominee. On the other side, Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia's Center for Politics, observed that he used to think that being out of the media spotlight was damaging, but now, "I don't buy that one iota. People have less time to get sick of you. There will be fewer reporters investigating you." Sometimes invisible is good.

On the other hand, Sabato noted, the long campaign is "toughening up Obama, who was and is the least experienced potential presidential nominee in modern American history."

RealClearPolitics.com HorseRace blogger Jay Cost likewise observed that the prolonged primary has helped both Democrats by highlighting early their systemic problems -- for her, "pro-Clinton myopia" and "mismanaging Bill," for him, "elitism" and buddies like former radical Weather Underground member Bill Ayers.

It's not all good. Rush Limbaugh has been urging conservatives to register as Democrats and vote for Hillary Clinton in order to prolong the primary and stoke Democratic rancor. How much of Clinton's 9.4 percent lead came from Limbaugh listeners? No telling.

In an e-mail, Limbaugh noted that one in ten voters in the Pennsylvania Democratic primary were newly registered Democrats. While Limbaugh noted that there is no way to tell how many crossovers were volunteers participating in his "Operation Chaos," he continued, "Ten percent of the vote? That's huge. That would be five times the past high for a crossover vote, and with a closed primary. And most did so in the last three days before the deadline, when I was really pushing it."

Also on the downside, as the contest has dragged on, Clinton and Obama have been pandering in overdrive. In the recent ABC debate, both Democrats said they would pull U.S. troops out of Iraq -- even if generals on the ground advised otherwise. (Remember when Dems used to hit President Bush for not heeding dissenting brass?) Obama pledged not to raise taxes on workers earning below $200,000. Clinton pledged, "I am absolutely committed to not raising a single tax on middle-class Americans, people making less than $250,000 a year."

$250,000 is middle class? If a Republican had said that, the media vultures would have pounced at the out-of-touch rich guy. By definition, after all, a group that earns in the top two percent cannot be middle class. But when a Clinton says that, pundits think a Democrat is being savvy. And with the two Clintons brining home $35 mil in 2006 and 2007, it almost makes sense. Maybe this silly season has gone on too long.