Is A Unity Ticket Really The Only Way?

Gallup has just released a poll that would seem to outline how divisive the Democratic nomination is getting, pointing out that 28% of Clinton supporters would vote for McCain should Obama win the nomination, while 19% of Obama supporters would do the same should Hillary win.

The five second analysis of this poll would imply that a unity ticket of both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton is the only way to prevent a major portion of the Democratic base from splintering off and mortally wounding the eventual nominee.  If only it were that easy.

As I once posited a couple of weeks back,there is the very real possibility that Hillary Clinton is attempting to seal in at least a vice president spot for her on the Democratic ticket by making it impossible for Obama to pick anyone else, and indeed, these polls would seem to bear fruit for this tactic.  This would at least plausibly explain the “Tonya Harding strategy” from someone without a viable path to the nomination.

My thinking goes like this.  It may not be possible for Clinton to damage Obama enough for her to actually win the nomination, on the other hand, it may be possible for her to damage him enough such that he would lose a vital amount of the Democratic base and become unacceptably vulnerable to McCain.  If this is the case, when it comes time to pick a running mate, the only way Obama could heal the wound is if he chose Hillary Clinton as his running mate.

But as I was discussing with Kathy of Liberty Street over the weekend, a lot of times you have to look harder at the polls and challenge their assertions and look for the underlying narratives.  Do these admittedly high numbers of irreconcilable voters really mean that the only way out of this situation is a unity ticket?

I don’t think so.

First, let’s take the general assumption that a poll this far out is going to mean much of anything and address it up front, shall we?  While these numbers may rise if the tone of this debate continues to drop, I think it is unreasonable to assume that they won’t eventually go back down.  How much they go back down will be at least in part a function of how much time exists between when a nominee is selected and the General Election in November, but they will go back down.

This is because for the most part these are still Democrats and John McCain is still a Republican.  I don’t doubt that there are Democrats who would vote for McCain, but there will at least be some percentage that won’t simply because of party lines.  These will eventually be those who may not necessarily vote forObama or Clinton, but instead will be voting against John McCain.

Also, we have to remember that we are in an incredibly emotional fight right now, and sentiments tend to run to the extreme.  Assuming we are given an adequate amount of time to heal, there will be another portion from both groups that will look back upon this nomination process and laugh about it all later.  They will harbor a grudge for a brief period of time, and eventually they will come around to whomever the nominee turns out to be.

Then we have to consider policy differences.  It’s easy to say you will support McCain now because issues have seemingly taken second billing to the he said/she said of a rather nasty race.  There will come, eventually, a realization among many of these voters that McCain still wants a hundred years of war in Iraq, knows nothing about the economy, and has extensive ties to corporate lobbyists, most notable, telecommunication company lobbyists.

Will there still be voters who will stand by their pledge to vote for John McCain?  Of course, but it is what it is, and bringing those wayward voters back into the fold is going to weigh not necessarily on some magical unity ticket but instead upon a solid grassroots effort and hard campaigning by the candidate.  At that point, either candidate is still likely to lose some voters, but we really can’t begin to predict what percentage that is likely to be, nor can we do much of anything about it.

I also think it is a little specious to imply that Hillary is doing significantly better because she bests Obama by nine points on this trait for several reasons.

The most glaring reason comes from the fact that this poll was taken amongst Democrats only.  It does not include non-Democrats who voted in all of the open primaries that we have seen to date, a core group of Obama’s support.

These voters who are not represented in the poll are also probably the least likely to reconcile and vote for Hillary based upon the fact that they do not hold any kind of party allegiances.  There’s another term for voters of this type, by the way, they’re also called “swing voters”.

There is also another dynamic that could possibly be at work here; Hillary is losing.  This is likely to have a significant impact on the mindset of both Hillary Clinton supporters and Barack Obama supporters.

For Clinton supporters it is a matter of doing what it takes to win the nomination.  If that means threatening to take your support somewhere else in order to paint Obama as unelectable, then so be it.  Obama supporters, who have more reason to believe their candidate will be the nominee than Clinton supporters, are going to take a different stance, and are going to be more concerned with shoring up support for the candidate in the general election.  To this degree, there may be less shown animosity not necessarily because they would be equally supportive of Clinton, but instead because there is the desire not to permanently put off her supporters who will be needed come the fall.

In general, though, this poll is not exactly the most useful tool to employ when we try to look at what is going to happen in the fall.  What it is useful in showing us, however, is that there are some tangible and potentially fatal repercussions resulting from this extended and increasingly ugly primary fight, and if it doesn’t end reasonably soon, it will ultimately hurt the eventual Democratic nominee beyond repair.

More from memeorandum: Daily Dish, Just One Minute, The Moderate Voice, Publius Pundit, The Mahablog, No More Mister Nice Blog, Taylor Marsh (I hope she really likes the ring of President McCain), Commentary, TPM, Pam’s House Blend, Ground Game, The Caucus, Don Surber,

7 Responses to “Is A Unity Ticket Really The Only Way?”

  1. Cooler heads will prevail. Well. Except for McCain’s cooler head. He doesn’t have one.

  2. God I hope he blows up right in the middle of a debate… you know, “Scanners” style if you know what I mean.

  3. julie says:

    Hilary Clinton is a selfish person. She does not care if she destroys the party in her quest for power. ugh!! she makes me so mad!

  4. She’s making a lot of people mad, Julie, a lot of people.

  5. Mary CA says:

    What impact will Case Number: BC304174, Peter F Paul VS William Jefferson Clinton, trial beginning on 04/25/2008 in Los Angeles have on the election? Clintons anywhere on the Democrat ticket mean I vote for Cynthia McKinney in November. Anyone who has been burned by a pathological liar with narcissistic personality disorder does not need a psychologist agree to diagnose Hillary. Decent people do not want Bill back in DC for a 3rd term as her close personal adviser. If I were not so old I would leave a country that allows that pair to run and destroy a democratic election with their lies. The DNC now disgusts me as much as the Republicans who believe the government is theirs, not, we, the people.

  6. Mary CA says:

    Edit: the pair being the Clintons. I will be surprised if Peter Paul does not suddenly commit suicide with a gun that did not fire the shot, like Vincent Foster. I have watched, helpless, as they work to destroy Obama much like they did to Billy Dale. She has her followers so snowed they attack me on a daily basis with her lies. This is the very worst election I have seen and I have seen a lot since JFK days.

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