Democrats’ Disputes May Open Door for McCain

By Natasha Pascetta
Staff Writer
Published: April 17, 2008

The past few months have been a political rollercoaster ride that does not seem to be stopping anytime soon. As Sen. Hillary Clinton and Sen. Barack Obama vie for the Democratic nomination, some suggest that the competition between the candidates may be more harmful than helpful in procuring a Democratic stronghold in the White House.

According to a recent poll analysis for Gallup.com, a sizable portion of Democrats would vote for Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain in November if he is matched against the Democratic candidate they do not support for the nomination. The poll stated that if McCain is up against Obama, 28 percent of Clinton supporters will vote for McCain. Similarly, if McCain is matched up against Clinton, 19 percent of Obama backers will vote for McCain.

Traci E. Alexander, professor of communication and media studies at Fordham College at Lincoln Center (FCLC), said that although the poll helps to understand the public view of the race, one cannot rely on poll results alone. “This race is a heated contest and has most of us looking in every corner for some hint of what the future holds…However, we cannot solely rely on the results of the polls to give us the answers we anxiously await. It appears that both candidates remain persistent. They are in it for the long haul and that means anything can happen.”

“Many people are now beginning to feel loyalty to the candidate rather than loyalty to the party—one has to wonder which brand of unity is more important,” said Mathew Rodriguez, FCLC ’11. “However, I do not think that their actions are tearing apart the party; I think it is the public’s reaction to mudslinging that is tearing apart the party.”

Like Alexander, Tom De Luca, professor of political science at FCLC, agrees with the poll’s suggestion that McCain will gain from the divided Democratic Party. “They are saying that in the heat of battle,” De Luca said. “When the dust settles, many of them will come back to the party fold.

“However, if McCain is able to retain his reputation as a ‘maverick,’ and if the campaign between the Democrats gets increasingly vitriolic, significant defections to him are possible. A positive and friendly contest between [Obama] and Clinton could actually keep the spotlight on them and off of McCain and make them both look good. An increasingly negative campaign will only help McCain.”

Mia Reyes, FCLC ’11, also thinks that the best thing would be for the Democratic Party to support one candidate. “I believe that the prolongation of selecting a Democratic nominee is contributing to a polarization of the party, as Clinton supporters and Obama supporters compete against each other. This competition, however, develops each candidate’s experience in effectively running against a strong opponent, which will become crucial when one of them competes with McCain come November.”

Although the competition between Obama and Clinton seems to be creating a rift within the Democratic Party, Chris Toulouse, professor of political science at FCLC, agreed that in the crucial months leading up to the presidential election, “The sharp contrasts drawn by McCain between himself will bring doubters home again.”

Rodriguez added that voters should be voting for change and progress in the form of any Democrat “and not get caught up in the Hillary versus Obama controversy.”

“I’m not convinced that we can assume any of the candidate’s supporters are going to just give their vote to McCain,” Alexander said. “It’s terribly hard to predict where people will place their vote based on today’s polls. But I am confident that it will be a very long and heated summer no matter what the polls show.”