Dangers of a Democratic Catfight

How will Democratic party officials handle the collateral damage of a catfight?


March 26, 2008— -- Back from a brief Caribbean vacation, Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., reflected wearily today on how he's been running for president since February 2007.

"Since that time, babies have been born and are walking and talking, since I started this race," Obama joked in in Greensboro, N.C., this afternoon. "I know it seems like it's been long for you, imagine how it feels for me."

Many people speculate that the Democratic race may continue through the end of the primary season in June — if not the convention in August.

The process thus far may feel especially long to many Democrats because of how nasty the campaign has become, a point Obama tried to address in his remarks today about Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y.

"She's a smart and capable person, but I want to make sure that the tone of this campaign creates a situation where the Democrats are going to win in November," he said.

The notion that the current tough tone could hurt the party against Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who has locked up the Republican nomination, is a real concern among top Democrats.

A new Gallup poll indicates that 28 percent of Clinton supporters say they would vote for McCain over Obama should she not get the nomination. But 19 percent of Obama supporters say they would go for McCain over Clinton.

Democratic officials are nervous and looking for silver linings.

"When they attack each other, and they do so in battleground states, these arguments are heard by voters and they may be remembered by them later on," Democratic strategist Tad Devine said.

"But there's also the fact that when you air these arguments early on, they become a little stale," Devine said. "And they may, in fact, wither on the vine."

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."

But today, in Parkersburg, W.Va., Bill Clinton made it clear he didn't agree.

"You know, I don't give a rip about all this name calling that's going on," he said.

"If a politician doesn't wanna get beat up, he shouldn't run for office," the former president said. "Let's just saddle up and have an argument. What's the matter with that?"

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.

ABC News' Sunlen Miller and Z. Byron Wolf contributed to this report.

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