'68 or '96?

The problem facing the Democrats isn't exactly the one raised by Kevin Drum and debated here and here and here - the problem of 1968, that is, in which a long and nasty intra-party battle fatally weakens the eventual Democratic nominee going into the general election. It won't: There's just too much going for the Democrats this year for the election not to remain eminently winnable no matter what happens (well, within reason) between here and the convention. Rather, the problem is that the party is losing a golden opportunity to try to put the race away early, the way Bill Clinton more or less did with Bob Dole in 1996 - by using their enormous fundraising advantage to rebrand John McCain as a Dole-style loser while he's still struggling to get his money-raising operation up to par. As Patrick Ruffini suggested earlier this week, if Obama had finished off Hillary last night he could have been up with anti-McCain ads all over the country immediately, forcing the GOP to play defense in places it usually owns all through the summer. Whereas the longer the race goes on, the less leverage the Dems' fundraising edge gives them, and the lower the chances that they can make it get late early for McCain through sheer dollar-power alone.