03/05/2008 11:53 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Close Contest Is Jackpot For Dems

Now that Hillary Clinton has finally taken some primary wins--3 of 4 (OH, TX, RI) in yesterday's 'Special Tuesday' (not quite 'super')--the pressure to spin bad results shifts from her to Barack Obama.  So far, the keyword in the Obama spin seems to be 'dangerous,' as in : 'it is dangerous for the Democratic Party if Hillary Clinton stays in the race.'

Spin from the Obama camp is understandable.  But the close contest is not dangerous.  It is a gift.

The Obama camp has brought many new people into the election, true.  But the bigger story is that the close primary battle has become the biggest, most exciting story in town--as in, every town in America.  This contest-that-never-ends has given Democrats everywhere a chance to stand up, speak out, and feel that their voices really matter in precarious times.   The close primary is an unexpected boon for the Democratic Party that will keep paying off until the Democratic Convention this summer.  It's an election year jackpot.

'Danger' If She Stays In

The 'danger,' according to Obama spin that will get repeated in the media this week, is of a split in the Democratic Party, a crumbling of the base brought on by mass cynicism. 

The potential for collapse is there,  so the argument goes, because super idealistic new voters may turn against the Democratic Party if their candidate--Obama--does not end up at the top of the ticket.  That's the spin, anyway. 

Princeton Professor Melissa Harris Lacewell unfolded the 'it's dangerous' argument during the Charlie Rose Show that followed the primary results from Ohio, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Texas.  At first, Lacewell seemed to suggest that if Obama did not get the nomination, the result would be a massive turning against the party by African-American voters.

Lacewell went on to qualify that argument by saying that the 'danger' stems from the risk of several groups of party loyalists who may finally throw in the towel.  Environmentalists, young voters, and African-American voters.  Each of those groups, according to Lacewell, have shown signs that they may 'stay home,' if Clinton gets the nomination. 

Is this true?

Well, nobody can predict the future, but it seems very unlikely that this kind of mass cynicism will happen.

Democratic voters are concerned about which candidate ends up on the top of the ticket, but voters can walk and chew gum and the same time.  Democrats can be passionate for their candidate in the here-and-now and at the same time stay focused on keeping a Republican out of the Oval Office.  Coming in second will not mean walking away from the game altogether for more than a small handful of Democrats, which will hardly be enough to trigger some catastrophic collapse in the party base.

At this stage of the game, hurt feelings are unavoidable whether the nominee is Clinton or Obama.  But 'danger' to the party if Clinton stays in the race?  Nope.

In fact, the opposite is true.  The longer both candidates stay in the race, the more participation, enthusiasm, and media coverage the Democratic Party will generate.  And there is no end in sight to that payoff.   Whatever mud gets thrown around in the process pales in comparison to the sheer numbers of people being drawn into the election by the close contest.

Democrats are loving this primary season like never before and it is not just the rhetoric of 'hope' or the promise of 'experience' that's doing it.  It's the competition.  Americans love it.


Close Contest Captivates Nation

Unlike the Republican contest which was just a standard race with
modest drama, the Democratic primary has become one of the greatest
political roadshows in American history.  Huge amounts of resources are
being invested to bring the Presidential debate to every state.  Every
state has enjoyed the spot light. Every voter has felt their choice

In last night's coverage of the primary, the news networks reported record turnout in Texas and Ohio.  At caucus stations in Texas, where only 30 or 40 Democrats had turned out in 2004, the number of participants had increased to 300 or even 400. That means increased participation for Democrats by a factor of ten!

Not only are the networks reporting the story of the ongoing, close Democratic primary race, but they are talking about how unprecedented the enthusiasm for it is--and how exhausted the newsrooms are keeping up with it.

Given those statistics, it seems foolish to send either Clinton or Obama away from the table.  The longer they stay in the game, the more voters turn out in every state, the more coverage the Democratic Party gets, the more John McCain and the Republican party is forced to gasp for what little air remains.

Amidst all that the Obama spin--that Clinton staying in is 'dangerous' for the party--will seem a bit silly to most.   But such is the nature of campaign spin.

Meanwhile, an ongoing close contest is the Democratic Party's lucky number, and as long as it keeps going Democrats are likely to keep winning all the way to the White House.

(cross posted from Frameshop)