Suddenly the Democratic presidential race is teetering on the edge — not just between Senators Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton, but between boost or burden for the party’s hopes in the fall.No doubt the threat of violence and mayhem at the Democratic National Convention in August--with groups there to Recreate '68--will not play well if Denver is trashed or the scene from the convention floor is one of intraparty rancor and argument.
So far, the clash between the two history-making candidacies has appeared to be an unalloyed benefit to the party. In state after state, Democrats displayed their enthusiasm through robust primary turnouts that drew in many new voters. If Clinton and Obama supporters have fallen into consistent niches by gender, income, education and ethnicity, polls show that most Democrats would happily support either one in November.
But now the threat of stalemate, vituperation and disillusionment hangs over a contest structured to declare a verdict a month ago. Potential fallout could imperil Democratic hopes for both the presidency and larger Congressional majorities.
“I’m very concerned,” said Representative Mark Udall of Colorado, who needs Democrats in his state to unite behind his bid for the Senate seat held by Wayne Allard, a Republican who is retiring. Mr. Udall warned that unity “could be a real challenge, especially as this thing grows more fierce.”
But Udall is also concerned about the money, as in the money he can't raise if it is siphoned off by warring Democratic factions:
A prolonged fight poses special risks to the party’s drive to build a working majority in the Senate. Frenetic fund-raising by the Clinton and Obama campaigns, which collected $90 million in February alone, diminishes the pool of cash available to Senate candidates.It will take at least $7-10 million for each candidate to wage a formidable campaign. The liberal big bucks will still be there, but tapped-out small time donors that have given to Clinton or Obama may not be there in as great a number should the Presidential nomination come down to the wire in a brokered and messy Denver convention.
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Mr. Udall said he opposed second-chance “mulligans” for Michigan and Florida. But he said he favored one last contest after the primaries end in early June — a “national caucus” in the form of swift decisions by superdelegates who remain uncommitted. Mr. Udall is one of them.
“Another 60 days probably doesn’t hurt us,” he said. “At that point, we’ve got to decide on a nominee.”
The continued focus on the nomination will also prevent Udall himself from stealing the spotlight on Denver for his own promotion, becoming completely overshadowed in the intervening months.