As the Democratic primary season heads into the most exciting and interesting political season that I can remember, I have only one message to the two candidates and their camps: don't tear each other up so badly that the eventual nominee is too bruised to face the Republicans in the fall. And don't toss around loose quips that might turn into Republican attack ads.
In truth, both the Republican and Democratic nominees will face the challenge of winning over supporters of opponents in their own party. McCain will have to bring in evangelical conservatives; if the price of that is giving the vice president's spot to an evangelical conservative, that could undercut McCain’s appeal to moderates and independents.
With the Democrats, of course, the picture is more muddled. We'll have to work through more primaries to see who gets the nomination. The conventional wisdom has it that Clinton's supporters, as partisan Democrats, would work for an Obama candidacy. But the party loyalties of Obama's supporters are seen as shaky. As the veteran of more than one insurgent campaign, where there is a tendency to see the "establishment" candidate as deeply flawed, I can see how this logic might play out with Obama supporters.
Still, for all of McCain's vaunted appeal to moderates (based on immigration, his opposition to torture, and McCain-Feingold), his candidacy would be sharply conservative in contrast to either of the Democratic nominees. And if Obama supporters don't like Clinton because she was late in opposing the war, will they really stay at home and let the election go to McCain when he says that we could be in Iraq for another century?