Bitter Democratic Fight Takes Voter Toll

Some Dems are worried it's getting too rough but Clintons aren't among them.

March 27, 2008 — -- The bitter fight in the Democratic presidential race is taking its toll and the news may be particularly bad for New York Sen. Hillary Clinton.

Clinton's personal approval rating has dipped significantly according to the latest Wall Street Journal/NBC poll, with 48 percent of Americans holding a negative view of her compared to the 37 percent who hold a positive view. For Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., the ratings are better: 49 percent positive, 32 percent negative.

But while some Democrats are worried it's getting too rough out there, the Clintons aren't among them.

At a low-dollar fundraiser Wednesday night in Washington, Clinton said, "This has been a spirited contest and you know what? It should be. That is how America works best."

On the trail in West Virginia, former president Clinton also downplayed any hand-wringing about the fighting, saying "I don't give a rip about all this name-calling that's going on. They've been going on ever since Iowa. I've heard them say all these things about her."

"The Big Dog" said all the barking and biting is par for the course.

"The only thing that matters is, what happens to you?" he said. "That's all that matters. If a politician doesn't wanna get beat up, he shouldn't run for office. If a football player doesn't want to get tackled or want the risk of an occasional clip he shouldn't put the pads on."

But voters seem to care about the name-calling and the tackles. In a recent Gallup poll, almost 30 percent of Clinton supporters say they'd go for Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., over Obama if Clinton loses the nomination; 19 percent of Obama supporters say the same.

Back from vacation, Obama acknowledged the politics can be tough but said sometimes attacks can go too far.

"A line can be crossed when you stop focusing on the American people's business, and it becomes just sport. It all becomes about winning as opposed to getting stuff done," he said.

Even once-silent Chelsea Clinton seems ready to roll up her sleeves and dive into the family battle, for the first time introducing her mother at the event Wednesday night in Washington.

"She is the candidate who is the most progressive, the most prepared to deliver on the issues that are so important to each of you and your families. And so that we can have the president that we need not only for us and our generation but for our children and grandchildren that I know my mother wants to have," the 28-year-old said.

But with much of the campaign tone and tenor not as positive as Chelsea's comments, Democratic Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen, who has not backed either Clinton or Obama, said the risks for the party could be great.

"The nastiness is only going to get worse, and what these candidates are going to have to do over the summer is persuade superdelegates that the other person is not capable of being president," Bredesen told ABC News.

"And then you'll turn around at the end of August and explain why that person should be president."

For those Democrats hoping the party will save itself from a nasty August convention fight, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid recently told a reporter from the Las Vegas Review Journal that it will be "easy" to resolve the race and "things are being done" to handle it.

He didn't elaborate.