Starting Gate: Worth Fighting For

(AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
Everyone knows the mantra by now when it comes to the shape of the Democratic race and even the most devoted supporters of Hillary Clinton would surely acknowledge that her chances of wresting the nomination away from Barack Obama are slim at best. And Slim may be leaving the building should Obama win Indiana on Tuesday.

Barring a complete meltdown, Clinton will almost certainly finish the primaries behind in pledged delegates won and most likely trailing in the popular vote. And, if you believe the buzz that has been emanating from the Obama camp recently, those all-important superdelegates are poised to put him over the top – or at least get him very, very close.

So why is Clinton fighting so hard still? Because, while every nomination is worth having, this one is worth doing almost anything to get and it might even be worth the risk of blowing up the party.

The latest CBS News/New York Times poll tells the tale. Despite the seeming strength of presumptive GOP nominee John McCain in current head-to-head matchups, the party's brand could not get much lower. Just 33 percent of registered voters said they have a favorable opinion of the Republican Party. Voters say they are likely to vote Democratic in congressional races by a 50 percent to 32 percent margin. The Democratic Party has wide advantages when it comes to dealing with issues like the economy, health care, the war in Iraq, immigration and even higher marks on sharing moral values.

In the perception game, voters expect a Democrat to win the White House by a 56 percent to 32 percent margin.

And the poll holds some troubling signs for Obama's campaign. Clinton does better against McCain in the general election matchup, giving her more ammunition for the electability argument. White women are deserting him in the poll and his unfavorable ratings have risen. He remains in a strong position to win the nomination but his support has eroded in the wake of his Pennsylvania loss and the "bitter" and Wright controversies.

Given the vulnerabilities that seem to be creeping into Obama's campaign, why should Clinton drop out – even in June. Why not hang around and see what happens during the summer, if not wage an active campaign, then at least remain viable until Denver?

Another "Judas?" Former Clinton friends and associates are bailing out all over the place. Former DNC chairman Joe Andrew, who was appointed to head the party by then-President Clinton, is de-endorsing Hillary Clinton and supporting Obama. Andrew will announce his decision in his home state of Indiana today and tells the AP that he wants to heal the rifts in the party. "I am convinced that the primary process has devolved to the point that it's now bad for the Democratic Party," Andrew said. In a letter he wrote to fellow superdelegates, Andrew says that "a vote for Hillary Clinton is a vote to continue this process, and a vote to continue this process is a vote that assists (Republican) John McCain. … While I was hopeful that a long, contested primary season would invigorate our party, the polls show that the tone and temperature of the race is now hurting us."

Sneaking Up In North Carolina? With all the attention for next Tuesday's primary fixated on Indiana, which is widely considered a near toss-up, don't forget about North Carolina. Despite having held a twenty-point lead or more just weeks ago, recent polls indicate a tightening in the state. And Obama supporters, many of whom argued that their candidate did well by closing a similar Clinton lead in Pennsylvania to ten points on election day, are playing down expectations. "We didn't accept the double-digit lead of a couple of weeks ago," Rep. G.K Butterfield, an Obama backer, tells the Raleigh News & Observer. "People are beginning to settle down and look at the race and make final choices. I think it will be a single-digit win."

Around The Track

  • John McCain will continue his week-long focus on health care in Cleveland today where he'll talk about giving patients more choices and information on their options. "When families are informed about medical choices, they are more capable of making their own decisions, less likely to choose the most expensive and often unnecessary options, and are more satisfied with their choices," McCain will say according to prepared remarks.
  • Former presidential candidate and ordained Baptist minister Mike Huckabee said yesterday that he thinks the Rev. Wright does not want to see Obama succeed because it would show there has been improvement in race relations in the U.S. "Jeremiah Wright needs for Obama to lose so he can justify his anger, his hostile bitterness against the United States of America," Huckabee said.
  • Clinton's campaign has turned around an ad with their most recent high-profile North Carolina backer, Gov. Mike Easley. "These are tough times in America and I think that Hillary is the one we can count on to get the job done," Easley says in the ad.
  • With all the attention on next Tuesday, the Clinton campaign is signaling they're looking ahead. Bill Clinton is visiting the University of West Virginia today. That state's primary is May 13th.