I just did a live bit of commentary on Al Jazeera’s English channel and even across the pond, all they wanted to talk about was the supposed and largely fictional intramural battle between Clinton and Obama and their supporters. The lead-in story was a near perfect example of the genre. First, and crucially the reporter got the causality wrong. They started with the obligatory interview of some fringe PUMA’s and then segued to the McCain campaign’s new idiotic 3am ad, and with the phrase “but the McCain campaign is seeking to exploit these divisions.” No. This gets the causality all wrong. The “Dems divided” meme has been cooked up by the RNC and McCain campaign and fed to the press. They’re no exploiting the division, they’re attempting to create it.
That, said, there’s some serious confusion about just what the actual facts of the matter are as regards this supposed rift. There are two distinct phenomenon at work, here. The first has to do with Clinton’s delegates. It should be noted that, God love ’em, and I do, the DNC delegates are not a particularly accurate representation of the American electorate. These areby definition the most committed, politically engaged people out there. There’s no question that some, maybe many of the Clinton delegates still harbor some resentment towards Obama and haven’t gotten over the primary. But I’d be willing to be a steak dinner that 99.9% of them will vote for Barack Obama. So why does it matter? It doesn’t. The only way the insiders dislike of Obama would matter would be if it manifested in a lack of enthusiasm as expressed in money and volunteers. But if there’s one thing the Obama campaign is not hurting for, its money and volunteers. In other words, even if there’s some significant portion of extremely active political partisans who aren’t happy or thrilled with Obama as the nominee, so what? They’ll vote for him.
Then there’s the broader electorate, as represented by the 18 million people who voted for Clinton in the primaries. Here, the data is a bit muddled. Some recent polls have shown a somewhat worrying percentage of those voters saying they’ll vote for John McCain. I’m not sold that this is the case, because people in polling have a demonstrated ability to not remember their past actions (like who they voted for) and because I’m not sure the sample sizes of the Clinton voters themselves are big enough. That said, even if there is an issue with these voters, it is an entirely distinct and separate .
The people in Denver who are mad at Obama are mad because they are super commited political activists who love Clinton. But the members of the electorate who voted for Clinton and now say they will vote for McCain are not those people. There simply aren’t enough of them.