We're Chillin'

by digby

I realize that a good many people think I'm living in cloud cuckoo-land, but apparently a large majority of the Democratic party is drooling and delusional right along with me:

Pushing back against political punditry, more than six in 10 Democrats say there's no rush for Hillary Clinton to leave the presidential race even as Barack Obama consolidates his support for the nomination and scores solidly in general-election tests.

Despite Obama's advantage in delegates and popular vote, 64 percent of Democrats in the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll say Clinton should remain in the race. Even among Obama's supporters, 42 percent say so.

That's not a majority endorsement of Clinton's candidacy; Democrats by a 12-point margin would rather see Obama as the nominee, a lead that's held steadily in ABC News/Washington Post polls since early March. Instead it reflects a rejection of the notion that the drawn-out contest will hurt the party's prospects. Seventy-one percent think it'll either make no difference in November (56 percent) or actually help the party (15 percent).

Those views correspond with opinions on Clinton continuing her candidacy. And in a related result, 85 percent of Democrats (including Democratic-leaning independents) are confident the party would come together behind Obama as the nominee though fewer, 45 percent, are "very" confident of it. That underscores the importance of the endgame for the party's prospects.

The second slot is one possibility: Clinton continues as the preferred choice as Obama's running mate, with 39 percent of Democrats saying they'd like him to pick her if he's the nominee. That peaks at 59 percent of African-Americans, 47 percent of Clinton supporters and 42 percent of women (vs. 34 percent of men).

I'm not necessarily endorsing the Unity ticket, but I don't see a lot of hate and division in those numbers. If nearly 60% of African Americans prefer Clinton on the ticket, it's fair to say that the party isn't irrevocably broken.

And McCain just looks sad;

In other signs of difficulties for McCain, Obama leads him in trust to handle the public's top issue, the economy, by 10 points; in trust to handle gasoline prices, by 20 points; and in trust to handle health care, by 24 points. On personal attributes Obama leads by wide margins as being better able to bring needed change, having the better temperament for the job, better empathy and a clearer vision for the future.

McCain also could suffer from the broader public discontent, generally and with George W. Bush in particular. Public disgruntlement neared a record high in this poll, with 82 percent of Americans saying the country's seriously off on the wrong track, up 10 points in the past year to a point from its record high in polls since 1973. And Bush slipped to his career low approval rating, 31 percent.

In a related result, the Democratic Party in general leads the Republicans in trust to handle the main issues the nation faces, by 53-32 percent the biggest gap in favor of the Democrats in data since 1982. The question, again, is whether that fades in Bush's wake.

It won't unless the Democrats allow McCain to be a different kind 'o Republican. It's not a big window for him, but it's a window nonetheless:

There are significant areas in which McCain can push back against Obama. After a five-year decline prompted by the unpopular president and the war in Iraq, there's been a recovery this year in Republican affiliation possibly the precursor of post-Bush politics. The change is slight but bears watching: On average in ABC/Post polls this year 28 percent of Americans have identified themselves as Republicans, compared with a 24-year low of 25 percent last year. It peaked at 31 percent in 2003.

As you can see by the numbers, the Democratic party is doing fine. They have the most exciting politician in the country running for president at a time when the opposing party is falling apart. But they should not get cocky. McCain's base, the media, will help him distance himself from Bush with everything they have and that's his best hope.

It would be wise for everyone to heed this warning:

McCain has a credible brand with the public, who see him as a maverick and a reformer. If McCain succeeds on his current path, he may be able to use his own popularity to infuse the Republicans with new life and a new narrative--the "Change Republican." The risk is amplified because there are 34 open House seats and 5 open Senate seats. Unlike incumbents, these Republican candidates--who aren't from Washington--could seize onto McCain's "Change Republican" brand and ride his coattails to a Republican comeback. Democrats could lose the House and Senate, and the White House would be out of reach.

It wouldn't be all "change." They'd combine this with the usual scare tactics and terror-mongering--tired old tactics that failed in 2006.

Lest my fellow Democratic partisans worry, I'm not giving away any secrets that the Republican strategists don't know. In the last few days, a strategy memo on this same topic has been circulated by Republican strategists.

There is a big Achilles heel to this strategy. On the issues that the public will judge McCain he is not change. McCain's tempered approaches on immigration and climate change are small bore stuff compared to the defining narratives on the war and the economy. On the issues central to voters, McCain is not change. The media pundits who think the public will view him as a maverick still don't understand this vulnerability.

In many ways the emergence of a Democratic majority rests on whether John McCain gets away with becoming a "Change Republican."

The answer is probably "no" but let this serve as notice to all of us: the ball is in our court.

The Republican party is George W. Bush --- there is no daylight. They acclaimed him as the second coming of Winston Churchill and Alexander the Great just three years ago. They put him back in the White House and then swaggered around calling Democrats neutered farm animals.

"Once the minority of House and Senate are comfortable in their minority status, they will have no problem socializing with the Republicans. Any farmer will tell you that certain animals run around and are unpleasant, but when they've been fixed, then they are happy and sedate. They are contented and cheerful. They don't go around peeing on the furniture and such."

They can run from that but they can't hide. Bush and the conservative movement he represents need to be tied around McCain's neck so tight he can't breathe.