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George Mitchell

George John Mitchell is the American special envoy to the Middle East for the Obama administration. A Democrat, Mitchell was a United States Senator who served as the Senate Majority[…]

Are the democrats hurting themselves by letting this primary go on so long?

Question: Are the democrats hurting themselves by letting this primary go on so long?



George Mitchell: Well, first off, it’s a mistake to think that if you didn’t have this contest, there wouldn’t be a risk. There’s always a risk in elections. When I first ran, having been appointed to the Senate, I was 36 percentage points behind in the public opinion polls. I’ll never forget it. These are the kinds of things that stick in your mind. The headlines said he has no chance to win. Well, I won the election by a big margin, so anybody who says to you, “Whoa, this is a sure thing, that’s a sure thing.” In my mind, that’s completely wrong. Any election can be won, any can be lost, any candidate can win, any candidate can lose, depending upon what happens. So, let’s remove the central premise of the question, that if you didn’t have a contest, the Democrats would be sure to win. To me, that’s just not true. So then you argue, well, yes, of course they can be hurt. If you have a primary, the benefit is you get a lot of publicity, there’s a lot of focus on them, the downside is that the polls show that substantial numbers of Clinton voters wouldn’t vote for Obama in the fall if he got the nomination, and the reverse. But over time, I think that a very large number of them will come around because the alternative, I think, will be worse. That is, the election of Senator McCain and a Republican to the Presidency, and particularly since you consider that in many respects, the policies being pursued would be those of the current administration, which certainly anybody who’s voted for Obama or Clinton in the primaries wouldn’t be supporting. So, a lot will depend upon how the candidate who doesn’t get the nomination handles it. I think both of them are so committed to the principles that they’re talking about, to the Democratic party, that they will help to heal the wounds once this competitive process is over. Difficult as that can be, because personal ambition, and I say that in a positive, not a pejorative sense, plays a very large role in all of this, of course. That they’ll come around and that the Democratic candidate will prevail in the fall. But there’s no such thing as a sure thing.