In It to Win It

The presidential front-runners prepare for battle

resentment on the losing side. But the notion that [either candidate] is just going to walk away in a cordial fashion is probably overly optimistic,” says Vincent Hutching, a professor of political science at the University of Michigan. “Both candidates at this stage have a sense of entitlement–that it belongs to them–and their supporters agree. It’s easy to say one will take the [vice presidential slot], but no one wants that. It could really be a problem in the not too distant future because someone’s going to be disappointed.”

“The modern convention is not built for conflict; it’s a media game and the party wants to present a unified party to the nation. Voters don’t like nasty and they don’t want to see that on television. Conventions are a unity play,” says Ronald Walters , a political science professor at the University of Maryland. “Barack Obama has already suggested that the popular vote ought to be the controlling factor even with super delegates. How do they go against the popular vote? Both candidates have power and really split the party down the middle. She is the establishment, centrist right wing and he’s the new leader of the progressive wing. So this has to be handled very, very delicately.”

On the Republican side, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney has dropped out of the race, for the good of his party and the country, he says. But Hutchings says, “He saw the writing on the wall. Given that Republicans have winner takes all in most states, it was mathematically impossible for him to win.” So now there are two, and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee says he’s not giving up. With Romney out, he may have even greater appeal among conservatives and has proven popular in the South.

The eventual Democratic nominee is widely believed to be facing a contest against Arizona Sen. John McCain, who is making a fervent effort to prove his own conservative bona fides. “He is going to be the nominee, but has to begin repairing the rift between the conservative movement and himself,” says Michael Fauntroy, an assistant professor of public policy at George Mason University. “But the specter of a President Hillary Clinton or President Barack Obama will cause them to hold their noses and support McCain. They may not like him, but the idea of a [Obama or Clinton] win is more than they can take.

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