I’ve been saying for quite some time that the long, drawn-out race that the Democratic candidates apparently have in front of them is bad for their long-term prospects: McCain will have all the time he needs to unify the Republicans, raise money, hone his message, and rest up, all while the Democrats are bashing each other over the head.
But Brad Plumer at TNR has the opposite take:
…the absence of a clear Democratic opponent would make it much harder for McCain to start attacking (back in 2004, the GOP was able to coalesce around the Kerry flip-flopping meme early on, which gave it time to sink in). Meanwhile, it seems that as long as the Democratic nomination is up in the air, dissatisfied conservatives are more likely to spend time airing their grievances with McCain than training their fire on his opponent.
Clinton and Obama would also have time to sharpen their message on the economy, in a debate waged largely on their terms—McCain’s ability to change the subject here would be minimal.
Yes and no. Those dissatisfied conservatives who hate McCain will probably stop jabbing him every chance they get once it’s clear that there are no other alternatives. And at that point the Republicans will probably just start attacking both Obama and Clinton. In fact, they’ll probably attack strategically, trying to bolster the candidate they think would make the weaker nominee. We’ll have weeks, perhaps months, of media/blogosphere guesswork about the ulterior motives of Karl Rove’s latest op-ed.
But Brad’s right that as Clinton and Obama debate one another, their messages seem to be getting out and excitement seems to be growing. Democrats across the country are stoked that they have two legit candidates to choose from; keeping that enthusiasm alive for a while longer so that the folks in Louisiana, Virginia, Wisconsin, and Ohio can experience it isn’t a bad thing.