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Dems Can Go the Nine Innings

By Froma Harrop

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

If the Democratic contest lasts until the convention in late August, so what? That leaves two months for Democrats to "coalesce" around their candidate and fight the Republican. And even that shorter time frame will seem a month too long for voters.

So why not go the nine innings? The great American pastime is not judged by time but by action in the field. That's how the game is played.

Polls say most ordinary Democrats want more primaries. But Democratic leaders -- not coincidentally, Barack Obama's backers -- say Hillary Clinton must drop out for the good of party. She has no chance of winning the nomination.

Wrong and wrong. Obama's support among independents seems to be weakening -- largely because of the Rev. Wright controversy. That Obama tolerated his pastor's highly offensive remarks for two decades is a problem that will not go away, whatever the polls say.

Republican John McCain would be a formidable foe for either Democrat. But his appeal to the sort of moderates who would otherwise support Clinton adds to Hillary's argument that she'd be the stronger Democrat in November. Some 28 percent of her backers say they'd vote for McCain if she loses.

As for Clinton's odds to nail the nomination, they're not great -- but also not nil. Democrats in Pennsylvania, Indiana, North Carolina and seven other states have yet to vote. If she wins big in those places -- and the Florida and Michigan primaries are somehow redone -- she could emerge with most of the popular vote after all. And even if she doesn't, the super-delegates could give her the margin she needs -- especially if momentum turns in her favor. (Insisting that super-delegates rubber stamp the voters makes no sense. Why have them?)

Obama's surrogates are nonetheless playing the inevitability card. The race for the nomination is over, they say, so let's move on.

Long ago, Clinton's campaign made much the same pitch. It wasn't attractive then, and it's not attractive now. Inevitability talk is designed to demoralize challengers but comes off as dismissive.

The Obama camp knows that and so employs a two-faced strategy. It sends out high-profile supporters to chant that Clinton can't win and is selfish for hanging in. Then Obama sails in with his smooth "Clinton can stay in the race as long as she wants" and a patronizing "I think that she should be able to compete and her supporters should be able to support her for as long as they are willing or able."

News flash: No one asked him.

The game's not over 'til it's over. And it's not over until Clinton says it is -- or the convention chooses someone. Or Democratic Party Chairman Howard Dean gets the superdelegates to designate a clear winner.

If the game were truly over, then Obama's helpers wouldn't care whether Hillary stayed in the race or not. Their candidate would be making leisured and genial appearances at events -- as McCain did once it became obvious that Mike Huckabee was no longer a serious threat.

Party elders say letting the Democratic candidates snipe at one another through August would hurt their nominee's chances in the general election. Perhaps. But ending the contest earlier would also extend the time Republicans have a Democrat to attack.

When the baseball game reaches the eighth inning, and one side is way behind, the league doesn't say: "Team X has no chance of winning. Time to declare a victor."

When the game goes into extra innings, and people are getting tired, Americans know what to do: Go into the kitchen and make a sandwich. Be patient. It will play out.

COPYRIGHT 2008 THE PROVIDENCE JOURNAL CO.

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Views expressed in this column are those of the author, not those of Rasmussen Reports.

See Other Political Commentary.

See Other Commentaries by Froma Harrop.

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