You’ve probably all read about the disadvantages of the lengthy unresolved Democratic campaign. Less time to unify. Lingering bitterness. Lots of fun video clips the Republicans can use against the eventual nominee in the general election.
But there are advantages as well. Two were mentioned by Lindsay Graham in a post-SuperTuesdayTwo Fox News interview I glanced at today: energized fundraising, and honing their campaigning skills. Lack of the latter (which presumabably will fall to John McCain) is something like what happens when a team clinches the division title too early, or a tennis player has too easy a path to the finals, and gets to face an opponent who’s been forced by stiffer competition to be on top of his/her game.
Still another advantage I can think of for the Democrats this year is connected to some flaws in the primary process itself. It used to be, with the convention system and those smoke-filled rooms, that party regulars only chose the nominee a few months before the election. That way, they had a chance to respond to more recent events—both external ones, and those connected with the prospective nominees themselves. Now, with the primary system, the nominees can get locked in very early, and the system can be too rigid to respond to new information.
For example: the trial of Obama associate and financial supporter Tony Rezko has just begun. Although Obama is not implicated in any transaction for which Rezko is under indictment, his name will come up in the trial. There is always the possibility that some event connected with it could end up casting a worse light on Obama for certain business associations with Rezko (see this and this).
Imagine if this happened after Obama had clinched the nomination. I’m not just picking on Obama here—the problem is inherent in a primary system that can lock in a nominee so early, especially a relatively unknown and unvetted one.
In a sense, then, it’s a good thing (for Democrats, that is) that the Democratic race remains fluid and responsive. And the press does no one any favors by giving a candidate a relatively free ride—whatever skeletons lurk in the closet are bound to come out in a general election. Much better that they be rattled about in the open air before the voters have committed to a nominee.