ABC Conveys Worries Obama-Clinton Battle Will Hurt Party in Fall

The broadcast networks rarely highlight poll numbers other than their own, but on Wednesday night ABC's World News pegged a story to a Gallup survey which confirmed the ongoing Democratic presidential battle will harm the party's chances in November. With “HURTING THE PARTY?” on screen beneath pictures of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, anchor Charles Gibson warned:
Many Democrats have been worried that the protracted fight, between Senators Clinton and Obama, might start alienating voters and hurt the party's chances against John McCain in the fall. Well, now there is evidence that may, indeed, be the case.
Reporter Jake Tapper outlined the evidence:
The notion that the current tough tone could hurt the party against Republican Senator John McCain is a real concern among top Democrats. A new poll indicates that 28 percent of Clinton supporters say they would vote for McCain over Obama should she not get the nomination. 19 percent of Obama supporters say they'd go for McCain over Clinton.
NBC Nightly News delivered a similar number Wednesday evening, but didn't have a story revolve around it. Reciting findings from a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, Tim Russert noted how in the past two weeks Clinton's positive number is down 8 points while Obama's has fallen by two points and 20 percent of both Obama and Clinton supporters “say they would be open to voting for John McCain in the general election, an indication of how bitter this fight has gotten.”

The Wednesday, March 26 story on ABC's World News:
CHARLES GIBSON: Presidential politics, next. Many Democrats have been worried that the protracted fight, between Senators Clinton and Obama, might start alienating voters and hurt the party's chances against John McCain in the fall. Well, now there is evidence that may, indeed, be the case. ABC's Jake Tapper is in Washington tonight.

JAKE TAPPER: Back from a brief vacation, Barack Obama in North Carolina this afternoon, reflected wearily on how he's been running for President since February 2007.

BARACK OBAMA: Since that time, babies have been born and are walking and talking.

TAPPER: It feels long to many Democrats because of how nasty the campaign has become, which Obama tried to address in his remarks today about Hillary Clinton.

OBAMA: Senator Clinton's a smart person. And she's a capable person. And I, I want to make sure that the tone of this campaign remains -- creates the situation where Democrats are going to win in November.

TAPPER: The notion that the current tough tone could hurt the party against Republican Senator John McCain is a real concern among top Democrats. A new poll indicates that 28 percent of Clinton supporters say they would vote for McCain over Obama should she not get the nomination. 19 percent of Obama supporters say they'd go for McCain over Clinton. Those numbers could improve. Still, Democratic officials, such as Tennessee Governor Phil Bredesen are concerned.

GOVERNOR PHIL BREDESEN: The nastiness is only going to get worse. What these candidates are going to have to do over the summer is persuade super-delegates that the other person is not capable of being President. And you turn around at the end of August, and suddenly that person we have to explain why they should be President.

TAD DEVINE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: When they attack each other, when they do so particularly in battleground states, these arguments are heard by voters. And they may be remembered by them later on.

TAPPER: Campaigning for his wife in Parkersburg, West Virginia today, Bill Clinton disagreed. Politics is a contact sport, he said. That's what America is about.

BILL CLINTON: If a politician doesn't want to get beat up, he shouldn't run for office. Let's just saddle up and have an argument. What's the matter with that?

TAPPER: Since it's likely that neither Obama nor Clinton can win the nomination without the support of the party insiders called super-delegates, Charlie, Governor Bredesen has proposed that all the super-delegates convene in June after the last Democratic primary, agree upon a nominee, and then allow for the rest of the summer for the party to begin healing before the convention in August. Charlie?
Brent Baker
Brent Baker
Brent Baker is the Steven P.J. Wood Senior Fellow and VP for Research and Publications at the Media Research Center