Democratic Divisions May Be Good News for McCain

Hillary Clinton's wins in three out of four primaries yesterday may be problematic for the Democratic Party, because it almost guarantees a bitter drawn-out battle for the Democratic presidential nomination. And that, NPR Senior News Analyst Ted Koppel says, is probably good news for Republican John McCain.

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TED KOPPEL: Neither Obama nor Clinton supporters have any reason to feel that their candidate should step aside in favor of the other.

MELISSA BLOCK, host:

NPR News analyst Ted Koppel.

KOPPEL: Positions are only likely to harden over the next few months. What's the compromise position? Clinton for president, Obama as her running mate? Can you really see that happening? Clinton running as Obama's vice president? Without a clear resolution at the polls, I don't think so.

We'll have almost two months of bitter campaigning before the Pennsylvania primary, to which we can then add the prospect of a thoroughly acrimonious debate about bringing Florida and Michigan out of the doghouse and letting them play a deciding role, oh, say, in mid-July, a little more than a month before the Democratic convention. By then, the politics of gender, race and age will only have polarized even further. Young voters and African-Americans are closing ranks behind Obama. Older voters, women and working-class white men are mobilizing behind Clinton. And the real danger for Democrats is that absent of fair and decisive victory of the polls for one or the other candidate, there are grudges and resentments building up here that could survive well beyond this election year.

A recent survey by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press found that 25 percent of Senator Clinton's supporters would consider voting for John McCain if their candidate doesn't get the nomination. Only 10 percent of Senator Obama's backers said the same, but Obama supporters don't have to jump ship to scuttle the Democratic Party's hopes. They need only sit on their hands and stay home on Election Day, which leaves only the issues that might hold Democrats together, the economy and the war.

McCain's positions on both would be a bitter pill for most Democrats to swallow, but the truth is that neither Senator Obama nor Senator Clinton has pledged to pull all U.S. troops out of Iraq, and both Democratic candidates' plans for restoring the economy are at best, vague. What Senator McCain and Republicans most need to win the White House in November is a healthy number of embittered and disenchanted Democrats, a prospect which, today, at least, seems like a safe bet.

This is Ted Koppel.

ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

You're listening to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News.

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