A Capital View: Democrats Needn't Despair

Some Democrats are already moaning that Sens. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama and their surrogates are risking defeat in November with their sniping over race and gender.

Other Democrats are worrying that Howard Dean, the party's chairman, is not taking a lead regarding the delegation dispute over Florida and Michigan delegates to the convention in Denver.

At the risk of being a contrarian, my message is one of solace. Democrats, there will be ample time to go after the McCain-Bush-Cheney record.

For example:

-- John McCain has already reversed course on tax cuts. He had the courage to vote against them early on but is supportive now. Watch for other reversals on issues as the senator from Arizona looks to mend his ways with the GOP right wing.

-- McCain has to defend Bush's legacy or antagonize those who think the president is right on the wars and other Bush mistakes. If Bush appears on the campaign scene this fall, as McCain has approved, Democrats will only gain.

-- Does anyone really think McCain will want Dick Cheney to campaign for him? The man has almost disappeared from public sight. If McCain does not ask him to take a long vacation in Wyoming, Democrats will cheer, and loudly.

-- The overall political environment favors Democrats. A Democrat won a special election this month in former Speaker Dennis Hastert's district in Illinois. The seat was a GOP fixture for nearly three decades. Moreover, Republican retirements in the House and vulnerable GOP seats in the Senate look promising for the Democrats.

Of course, the Democrats could risk all this if the battle for the nomination really spins out of control. It isn't there yet.

But Clinton and Obama should instruct their friends to stop popping off and requiring them to disavow their statements. The GOP smear machine will only benefit.

By John W. Mashek