Suddenly the Democratic presidential primary race is teetering on the edge--not just between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, but between boon or disaster for the party’s 2008 hopes.
So far, the clash between two history-making candidacies has only helped. In state after state, Democrats displayed their enthusiasm through robust primary turnouts that drew in many new voters. If Clinton and Obama supporters have fallen into consistent niches by gender, income, education and ethnicity, polls show most Democrats would happily support either one in November.
But now the threat of stalemate, vituperation and disillusionment hangs over a contest structured to declare a verdict a month ago. Potential fallout could imperil Democratic hopes for both the presidency and larger Congressional majorities.
“I’m very concerned,” says Rep. Mark Udall of Colorado, a state Democrats hope to turn from red to blue. He needs a united party in his bid for a Republican-held Senate seat, and warns that “could be a real challenge, especially as this thing grows more fierce.”
Mrs. Clinton won last week after escalating her attacks on Mr. Obama’s authenticity, experience, and ties to a scandal-tarred donor. In defeat, Mr. Obama responded by questioning Mrs. Clinton’s ethics.