With the events of the last 3 weeks, we’re really looking at an interesting scenario for November. Hillary Clinton’s campaign continues to insist that it will court superdelegates to win the nomination, no matter the damage to the party, if she hasn’t won a plurality of committed delegates. It certainly doesn’t look at this point like either Democratic candidate will have a clear majority of delegates, and it doesn’t appear that either one (or, especially, their supporters) will go away quietly, either. I think there’s definite potential for a party split, especially if Hillary wins either because of superdelegates or by getting the Florida and Michigan delegations seated.
On the Republican side, even after Mitt Romney dropped out, Mike Huckabee started winning pretty substantial numbers in the remaining Republican primaries. Rush Limbaugh has been practically foaming at the mouth about how McCain’s “not really a conservative” – just because he doesn’t support trying to deport 12 million people en masse – how novel! The Republican winner-take-most allocations in those states means Huckabee’s not likely to cause a contested nomination, but it indicates that McCain’s support from “the base” is pretty thin. If he does get the nomination, will the Religious Right split the party?
There hasn’t been a serious party split in the Presidential election since Teddy Roosevelt split the Republicans with the “Bull Moose” Progressive Party in 1912. The real effect of that was to hand the election to Woodrow Wilson. You can argue the same thing about Ross Perot’s independent bid in 1992, or Ralph Nader’s campaign in 2000. Part of it is the pure numbers of the electoral college and first-past-the-post (simple plurality) voting. But if both parties split, what would happen? The race would almost certainly go the House of Representatives, and how would their numbers break down? Not a pleasant thought.
Believe me, I’m not savoring the prospect – well, that’s a lie, actually. I would be overjoyed if the fundamentalist wingnuts brought down the GOP. But it would be really tragic if the Democrats split over personality and not policy – really, when you get down to brass tacks, there’s not a lot of difference between Clinton and Obama on policy. I’m really hoping that this is just brinkmanship on the Clinton campaign’s part to try to show how tough and committed Hillary is. But you just never know – her political temperament was forged by the “politics of personal destruction.”