Civic Alert Weighs In: What Did Tuesday Mean for the Race?

Well, the numbers are still rolling in, but already the candidates are looking to the future. Our good-looking team of writers here at Civic Alert are here to weigh in on what they think tonight’s results mean for the presidential race in the coming weeks. Hit the jump for knowledge.

Scott:
No doubt about it that tonight’s unsung winner is John McCain. Finally securing the number of delegates needed to become the official presumptive nominee is great news for both him and the Republican Party. Now he can get a big head start on unifying the Republican Party for the general election, beginning with a certain presidential endorsement in the next few days. While Hillary and Obama continue most likely nasty and divisive politics, McCain gets be the nice guy for the next few months, throwing laid back fundraisers and sniping at the mistakes both Democratic candidates will surely make while on the campaign trail.

Tonight was great news for Hillary, but ultimately bad news for the Democratic Party. Decisive wins in both Rhode Island and Ohio, and a win in the Texas primary, will give her enough ammo to at least continue the race for another seven weeks until Pennsylvania votes. That’s right, this is going to keep going for another seven weeks. The state of the race for the Democrats really don’t change that much from what it has been over the past two weeks. Barack Obama still holds a similarly sizable delegate lead, so I would expect the same tactics out of the Clinton campaign as we’ve been seeing over the past two weeks.

This is where the unfortunate part for the Democrats comes in. I think that a prolonged Clinton-Obama rivalry would be very healthy for the Democratic party if both candidates could keep the race civil. As more states find that, for the first time in years, their primary votes actually matter, the exciting Clinton-Obama decision will bring new voters to the table and keep public interest on the Democratic candidates. However, if the candidates continue the divisive and nasty attack politics we’ve seen over the past two weeks in Ohio and Texas, it can only spell trouble for the Democrats. This week, Hillary Clinton said that even John McCain has more experience than Obama. That’s the kind of politics that’s going to really come back and bite the Democrats. If Obama gets the nomination, the Republicans will surely use Hillary’s statement aggressively against Obama in the general election. If this mud-slinging continues, and I can only imagine that it will after how well it worked for Hillary in Ohio, it’s going to really turn off Democratic voters, push independents away and further help unify the Republican party.

So ultimately, the real winners tonight were the Republicans.

Graison:
I agree with Scott: John McCain was last night’s real winner if there was one. This is for two reasons, and neither are his official clinching of the GOP nomination.

1. He gets a chance to define Barack Obama on the national stage before Obama gets to devote his full attention to it. As I type, Senator McCain is receiving a formal endorsement of sorts by President Bush at the White House; we can expect a subsequent fundraising blitz with the President (who can still raise money among his party’s faithful better than anyone) in days and weeks to come. But that is the least of Senator Obama’s–or Senator Clinton’s–worries. With an open stage for the coming weeks–or months–McCain will be painting Obama as a orthodox liberal, replete with questions of his ability to be commander-in-chief and several mentions of his “most-liberal” voting record in last year’s Senate. I don’t mention Senator Clinton because (1) the Republicans have already defined her–half of America already says they won’t vote for her–and (2) because they understand that Barack Obama is all but the presumptive nominee (see my post if Clinton’s wins last night have you thinking otherwise (http://civicalert.org/2008/03/05/why-hillary-clinton-has-already-lost/).

2. Because the longer the Democrats fight the weaker their chances are in November. While Obama has an all-but-certain delegate advantage through the end of the schedule, Hillary Clinton knows she still has a chance to keep popular-victory momentum from last night going until she can force her hand to get Florida and Michigan delegates to count or erase her deficit with by recruiting more Superdelegates. The latter is unlikely to happen–too many Superdelegates’ constituents are going for Obama and they are not likely to reverse those decisions. But Florida and Michigan seatings–or rematches–are still possible. Want proof the Republicans are loving this idea? Florida Governor Charlie Crist, Republican and endorser of Senator McCain, has offered his state’s financial backing of a primary rematch.

If the Democratic contest goes on for the next several weeks, expect more of the Clinton campaign’s “kitchen sink” attacks against Barack Obama. Hillary Clinton’s staff recognizes that she cannot win a contest of personal appeal against Obama; her only plausible option is to try to lessen his appeal. And whether she’s successful or unsuccessful in her attacks, she’s giving John McCain more material for November.

Mike:

The boys up top reflected both of my sentiments fairly accurately, but I did think it was worth commenting on why the Republicans are so excited to see the Democrats prolong their search for a nominee. The main reason being, it further divides the Democratic party and gives incentive to undecided voters to look towards McCain as their presidential choice. As the Democratic candidates continue their campaign against each other, and ultimately spend their campaign funds against each other, they prolong the fight against members of their own party. I know that if Hillary ends up securing the Democratic nomination, she’ll have to do a fair amount of work before I can passionately back her. If either Clinton or Obama came out as the presumptive candidate earlier in this race, their campaign could have been focused more on attracting independents and Republicans, instead of convincing members of their own party to support them. This leaves room for McCain to not only save money by campaigning against no one until the nominations have been decided this fall, but provides him with an opportunity later in this race to criticize his Democratic opponent as failing to attract the support of their own party.

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