On CNN, I got into a nasty little brawl with a man I admire. He's a true Texan and a fellow practicing Catholic. The difference is he's for Hillary Clinton, and I am trying desperately for the sake of the Democratic Party to maintain my neutrality. But when my old buddy Paul Begala suggested the coalition Clinton has generated is better than the one Obama has built, I got upset. Both are winning coalitions for the Democratic Party that must now, in the midst of an exciting election season, come together to begin to take on John McCain.
Some people are asking me what Hillary Clinton is doing. Why is her campaign running a war of attrition against the likely Democratic nominee for president, Barack Obama? Why must her surrogates continue to raise needless, pointless and inaccurate doubts about Obama's electability? Are they trying to create a self-fulfilling prophesy, hoping that he will be struck by some other bolt of political lightning that will make him unacceptable to Democratic delegates, super- and otherwise?
It is a terribly risky strategy for Clinton, a tenacious and spirited candidate, who has come back from the brink of disaster several times during this long nominating season. She's done it by focusing on the real problems facing the American people, like the housing foreclosure crisis, or by hitting hard on the Republican Party's lack of attention to the economic hardship faced by working people of all backgrounds. But since her stunning defeat in North Carolina, Clinton is back on the campaign trail arguing her electability as a general election candidate when it's clear: The Democratic Party's nomination for pledged delegates is just about over.
With 93 percent of all pledged delegates decided, the winner must emerge at some point to begin unifying the party and seeking the support of the person who came in second place. The winner must be determined by the rules as approved by the candidates and their supporters nationwide. And there is no reason to change the rules or complain how they failed one candidate or the other when both knew the rules before getting into the game.
Clinton's momentum after winning Pennsylvania did not produce a big result in Indiana — she barely squeaked by. Even the media's near-fatal attraction to the Rev. Jeremiah Wright saga didn't significantly hurt Obama in North Carolina, where he captured the same percentage of white voters that normally turn out for Democrats in the fall.
With six more primaries to come in some pretty important swing states, like West Virginia and Oregon, Clinton and her passionate supporters are left to play games with fuzzy math. She's making the claim that she's the most electable person and the only one who can compete, toe-to-toe, with McCain. She also claims to fight for blue-collar voters. And I believe she will, as well as Obama and McCain. Let's hope so. They, like the rest of us, want a president who will represent all Americans, including those unemployed and homeless.
But Obama's won more states — small and large. He has the most pledged delegates from states that used a caucus system, as well as those that used a primary. How could winning more votes possibly make him less electable? This logic is so convoluted that it's downright Rovian.
The other part of the Clinton strategy appears to be a threat of an insurrection at the convention in Denver. She will fight over seating the delegations from Florida and Michigan, which openly violated and challenged the rules and lost. Now, DNC Chairman Howard Dean has stated that the party will review the Florida and Michigan situation because those voters — not the party elected officials who openly defied the rules — should have a seat at the table. The party must resolve this and not let this become the fight we have in Denver.
And then there is conservative radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh, originator and advocate of "Operation Chaos," an optimistically named campaign encouraging Republicans to vote for Clinton with the aim of keeping the Democratic race undecided. In Indiana, it's estimated that Clinton had a 7-point bump in crossover GOP voters. While Clinton has doubters and devotees on the Left side of the aisle, she is not, and has never been, a legislator with any significant base on the Right side of the political divide. Of course, she immediately wins some conservative voters who wanted to vote for a woman in their lifetimes, but those voters have supported her since she announced her candidacy and cannot account for her increasing support among Republicans.
Experience tells me that if Obama is the party's nominee, the remaining superdelegates will bear as much responsibility as the Republicans for every obstacle he encounters on the road from Denver to the White House. Allowing this pitched battle to continue unabated might become a big roll of the dice for the Democratic Party. But we must be patient. We must wait and demand Clinton and Obama start to take us down the high road that leads to victory in the fall.
I know something about losing. I know something about winning, as well. Being a good winner is easy; it's being a good loser that's tough. Come on, fellow Democrats. It's time we show the country what we're made of and start to unite around the eventual nominee.
Donna Brazile is a political commentator on CNN, ABC and NPR, contributing columnist to Roll Call, the newspaper of Capitol Hill, and former campaign manager for Al Gore.