Democrats and Obama Should Not Try to Force Hillary Clinton Out of the Race

Dems and Obama should not try to force her out.

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So Democratic leaders have read the new Pew poll showing Sen. Barack Obama to be the favorite among Democratic voters, and their decision is to ramp up the pressure on Sen. Hillary Clinton to drop out of the presidential nomination race next week. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada will be joined by Democratic Party leader Howard Dean next week in asking uncommitted superdelegates to make up their minds and commit to a candidate. That, so the messy nomination process can be cleaned up and their candidate can proceed into the general election phase unhindered. Is this a wise move or not?

If the Pew poll is right and if its results hold until November (the former less certain than the latter), such a move could alienate Clinton supporters even further from the Democratic Party. The Pew poll shows Obama's negatives are way higher than they were earlier in the campaign, particularly among white women and independents:

These trends mirror shifting patterns of support for the candidates in the general election matchup. Currently, Obama and McCain run even among independents (44% to 44%); in April, Obama enjoyed a 52% to 41% advantage among these pivotal voters. Similarly, Obama now trails McCain among white women (by 49% to 41%), who were more evenly divided in previous surveys.

Obama supporters I've spoken with are having trouble understanding why Clinton remains in the race when, by their count and by the media's count, it is over, over, over. Clinton supporters are equally adamant she still has a chance of winning and take umbrage at suggestions she should drop out now. Polls take a snapshot in time. Any poll taken today will more likely be wrong than right by the time the general election takes place in November. But any move, whether by the Obama campaign or by the Democratic leadership, to shove Clinton out of the way stands to do more harm than good with her supporters. Her campaign has drawn the majority support of older white women and white working-class voters. All the Democratic Party need do is review the percentages and demographic patterns of the 2004 presidential election. As I have written before, Clinton's constituents make up a much larger percentage of the general electorate: Overall, 125,736,000 Americans voted, 99.5 million of them being "white non-Hispanic," 14 million African-American, 7.5 million Hispanic, and 2.7 million Asian-American.As the Census Bureau reported in 2006:

The voting rate was higher among the older citizen population than the younger citizen population. The rate for citizens 55 and older was 72 percent in the 2004 presidential election, compared with 47 percent among 18- to 24-year-old citizens.

In that year, there were 27 million Americans between the ages of 18 and 24 eligible to vote versus 64 million age 55 and older. The latter group is some 2½ times the size of the former. Almost 9 million more women voted than men in '04.No doubt Obama will boost voter participation rates among young persons and persons of color. No doubt he will wrap up the nomination—and soon. But he cannot win the general election without majority support from Clinton's backers. So much of whether they join his team is based on how he and the Democratic leadership conduct themselves and how they handle Clinton, which should be with great delicacy. This is especially true since CNN is now running a story about how in his first run for the Illinois State Senate Obama forced another woman out of the way to win the nomination for that race.