Will Hillary Ruin the 2010 Elections for Democrats?

Party leaders worry that the long, heated race could hurt down-ballot Democratic candidates for several election cycles.

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First the press counts her out, then the voters in North Carolina and almost Indiana last night and now Georgetown's fashion set are rejecting Sen. Hillary Clinton, too. We've been following the vote at Ann Hand's Georgetown jewelry store and it appears in the picture above that purchases of the Hillary 2008 pin have flattened at 204, while those for Sen. Barack Obama have surged to 1,015 and also to 462 for Sen. John McCain. No wonder then that the talk of Washington today is not just when Clinton will bow out of the primary campaign but also how bad it will be for the party this fall and maybe even in 2010 if the election fight continues on.

Some party officials tell us that the damage could last well past Election Day. These officials, while not wanting to be seen encouraging Sen. Hillary Clinton to get out of the race to begin the healing, are starting to whisper that the electibility of the party down-ticket in House, Senate and local races could be substantially hurt for at least the next congressional election cycle if the Democrats can't show new unity and beat Sen. John McCain. "We should win, it's our year. We have to win," said a party leader on background. "But if this continues and somehow McCain wins, we won't just be facing a divided party but people will give up on us," added the leader. It's a concern that has been heard on Capitol Hill and among fundraisers, though they generally concede that there's nothing the party hierarchy can do about it until one of the two candidates eventually concedes defeat. For Hill Democratic aides, the worries now include sustaining their majority in the 2010 elections, if a Democratic president isn't elected. "We can't just run out of steam. People will hate us if we can't pull it together and win this time," said one top aide.