By Fred Lucas
CNSNews.com Staff Writer
March 21, 2008
(CNSNews.com) - The lengthy Democratic primary contest bodes well for Republican chances of holding the White House, a new poll suggests.
As Democratic Senators Barack Obama of Illinois and Hillary Clinton of New York slug it out for the nomination, many of their supporters -- at least in Pennsylvania, site of the next major primary -- aren't committed to the party's ticket in November, according to a Franklin & Marshall College Poll.
Among Obama supporters, 20 percent said they would vote for Sen. John McCain of Arizona, the Republican nominee, if Clinton beats their candidate for the nomination. Among Clinton supporters, 19 percent said they would support McCain in November if Obama is the Democratic nominee. (See poll)
The significant number of potential defectors underscores how divisive the Democratic primary has been.
Democrats won Pennsylvania in the 2000 and 2004 presidential races, but it was a competitive state in both election cycles. McCain, meanwhile, has touted his appeal to swing voters.
"Pennsylvania is a must-win state for a Democratic presidential nominee," Nathan Gonzalez, political editor of the Rothenberg Political Report, told Cybercast News Service. "If there is a significant weakness for a Democrat in Pennsylvania, it could indicate a weakness in Ohio or other key states."
Even a few months ago, the presidential race looked like a major uphill climb for any Republican candidate. But recent polls suggest a toss-up between McCain and either Democratic candidate.
Obama and Clinton both have many negatives, which doesn't make the Pennsylvania poll too surprising, said Doris Graber, a political science professor at the University of Illinois.
"Obama is very liberal, more liberal than we've seen on the campaign trail. Also, there is still racism out there," Graber told Cybercast News Service. "Hillary, we've known all along, has strong supporters. But there are also a lot of people who would never vote for her. There is some antipathy from the Clinton years. Some wouldn't vote for her because she's a woman."
Graber believes it is "almost a certainty" that the Obama-Clinton battle will be decided at the Democratic National Convention, which could drive a wedge through the party.
"Democratic voters could be persuaded not to vote for a candidate with vulnerabilities," she continued. "A vote for McCain wouldn't be that difficult. He does appeal to the middle."
However, Gonzales cautioned not to read too much into a single poll, or discount the desire of Democratic voters to move beyond the George W. Bush years, of which McCain has become the heir.
"This is a very personal and competitive Democratic primary," he said. "Clinton and Obama supporters have trouble seeing themselves with the other now. A healing period will have to happen."
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