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The Extended Primary Absolutely, Positively Doesn't Help The Dems

I don't really buy Kit Seelye's argument that the never-ending primary is healthy for Democrats. The analytical mistake people tend to make here is to confuse reasons why the extended primary isn't necessarily bad with reasons why it's actually good. There are plenty of examples of the former, but almost none of the latter. That is, there's almost nothing you accomplish during a competitive primary (at least by this point) that you couldn't accomplish if you'd already sown up the nomination. On the other hand, there are lots of reasons why continuing hurts the eventual nominee.

A lot of people who argue Seelye's position think they're showing that there are ways in which an extended primary hurts and ways in which it helps. In fact, all they're showing is that there are ways in which it hurts and ways in which it doesn't hurt. To me, that adds up to an argument against continuing.

That said, Seelye does make a very good point:

[T]he Clinton campaign has ceased its daily political conference calls with reporters, which only stirred the pot with the Obama campaign. (Update: Shortly after this column was posted, the Clinton campaign held a conference call to discuss a new ad that criticizes John McCain.)

It may not be apparent to the casual viewer of the news, but Mrs. Clinton is no longer dropping negative bombs on Mr. Obama. She has shifted her attacks, some of them quite trenchant, to President Bush and Senator John McCain, the presumed Republican nominee.

I've been thinking the same thing. I got on the call she mentions expecting to hear Howard Wolfson and Mark Penn unveil an ad that really lays into Obama. (They billed it as the second installmant of their 3 a.m. ad.) But instead it was entirely focused on McCain. Maybe the superdelegates have really gotten through to them.

If that's how the rest of the race shakes out, then I don't see the extended primary as such a terrible thing. (Though, to review, it's still not a good thing.)

--Noam Scheiber