Pushing back against political punditry, more than six in 10 Democrats say there's no rush for Hillary Clinton to leave the presidential race – even as Barack Obama consolidates his support for the nomination and scores solidly in general-election tests.
Despite Obama's advantage in delegates and popular vote, 64 percent of Democrats in the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll say Clinton should remain in the race. Even among Obama's supporters, 42 percent say so.
That's not a majority endorsement of Clinton's candidacy; Democrats by a 12-point margin would rather see Obama as the nominee, a lead that's held steadily in ABC News/Washington Post polls since early March. Instead it reflects a rejection of the notion that the drawn-out contest will hurt the party's prospects. Seventy-one percent think it'll either make no difference in November (56 percent) or actually help the party (15 percent).
Those views correspond with opinions on Clinton continuing her candidacy. And in a related result, 85 percent of Democrats (including Democratic-leaning independents) are confident the party would come together behind Obama as the nominee — though fewer, 45 percent, are "very" confident of it. That underscores the importance of the endgame for the party's prospects.
The second slot is one possibility: Clinton continues as the preferred choice as Obama's running mate, with 39 percent of Democrats saying they'd like him to pick her if he's the nominee. That peaks at 59 percent of African-Americans, 47 percent of Clinton supporters and 42 percent of women (vs. 34 percent of men).
There's also an indication that Clinton on the ticket would be a slight net plus in the general election: Among all Americans, more say having her run with Obama would make them more likely to vote Democratic (25 percent) than to vote Republican (18 percent). The rest (54 percent) say it wouldn't make a difference in their choice.
OBAMA and NOVEMBER – For his part, Obama, who surpassed Clinton on electability last month, now has knocked down another of her campaign's tent posts, for the first time slipping ahead of her as the "stronger leader." Her sole remaining advantage is on experience – a challenge in a contest in which Obama's theme of "change" has far outstripped experience as the attribute of top concern for Democrats.
In general election matchups, Obama leads McCain by 51-44 percent, similar to the last two ABC News/Washington Post polls. Standings in a Clinton vs. McCain race are 49-46 percent, again roughly similar to previous ABC News/Washington Post results.
About a quarter of Clinton supporters (26 percent) say they'd favor John McCain over Obama, and about as many Obama supporters (22 percent) say they'd take McCain over Clinton. However that's a measure taken in the heat of Democratic battle; again, how the race ends, and goes forward toward November, likely will count for much.
Indeed, relatively few mainstream Democrats (as opposed to independents) say they'd cross over (13 and 10 percent, respectively). And as many Republicans say they'd defect the other way – 10 percent for Clinton if she faced McCain; 15 percent for Obama vs. McCain.