Clinton Backers for McCain Illustrate Democratic Rift

By Fred Lucas | July 7, 2008 | 8:24pm EDT

( - Anne Franklin of Fort Worth, Texas, said she became enamored with Hillary Rodham Clinton back when Clinton was the first lady of Arkansas.

Franklin describes her experience of the last few months as getting up early and staying up late, doing volunteer work aimed at helping Clinton win the Democratic presidential nomination. Federal Election Commission records show Franklin donated $2,300 to Clinton's campaign.

Last Saturday, Clinton, a New York senator, asked her voters to give their full support to Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) as she dropped her bid for the Democratic nomination. But Franklin is not ready to follow Clinton's lead on this point. "I think the world of Hillary, but nobody tells me who to vote for," she said.

Franklin is one of Clinton's backers who intend to vote for Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), the presumed Republican presidential nominee, in the general election. She and two other Clinton supporters, Cristi Adkins and Peter Boykin, have started (FEC records do not show contributions to Clinton's campaign from either Adkins or Boykin.)

The Web site went up Monday, and already, more than 600 people have logged on with messages saying they want to participate, said Franklin. On the Web site itself, it said: "We're mad as hell and not going to simply fall in line like Stepford Wives."

Franklin, Adkins and Boykin haven't met and know each other only from pro-Clinton chat rooms, Franklin said. Adkins has appeared on some TV talk shows regarding the Web site. The group is joining a coalition of groups called NObama, which lists as its partners the Write Hillary In, Women for Fair Politics and Clinton Democrats, among more than 80 Web sites listed by the coalition.

Recent polls have shown Obama with a small lead over McCain. But numerous polls have shown that one in five Clinton supporters plan to cross over and vote for McCain in November.

Franklin said that some Democrats are concerned about Obama's judgment and associations with people such as his former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, and former mortgage company executive Jim Johnson, who resigned Wednesday from Obama's vice-presidential-nominee vetting team.

"I talk to my family and friends; I think a high number of Democrats fear what Obama would do to this country," Franklin said. "They don't fear him because he's black. They don't think he's a Muslim. But he's not good at vetting. He's scary."

Though McCain differs significantly with Clinton on issues such as the War on Terror, Iraq, health care and abortion, Franklin believes that McCain is at least a centrist.

"His own party doesn't like him. I don't want Roe v. Wade overturned, but there are other issues," Franklin said. "He'll appoint moderate judges. If he doesn't want to, he'll have to. We have a Democratic Congress."

Party defection rate

In one of the most recent polls released Tuesday, a Suffolk University poll showed that even in the liberal state of Massachusetts, 20 percent of Clinton supporters said they would vote for McCain in the general election. Nonetheless, Obama still leads McCain by 13 points in the overwhelmingly blue Bay State.

But similar numbers of defectors in swing states could make a difference in the election.

Suffolk polls in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana and West Virginia show similar number of Democratic defections to McCain. (See Previous Story)

A national Gallup Poll in late March showed 28 percent -- the highest defection rate Clinton supporters shown thus far -- would vote for McCain in November.

However, that trend could be reversing. A Rasmussen Poll this month showed that the number of Clinton supporters in Missouri -- a potential swing state -- willing to support McCain in November dropped from 21 percent last month to 13 percent this month.

"What partisans say in June, when they are angry, and what they do in November are two different things," Larry Sabato, director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia, told Cybercast News Service.

"Will a certain number of Clinton supporters vote for McCain to spite Obama and the Democratic Party?" he asked. "Of course. This is part of what is called the party defection rate."

In 2004, 11 percent of Democrats defected to Republican President Bush, and 6 percent of Republicans defected to Democratic challenger John Kerry, Sabato said. He expects between 5 and 12 percent from each party to defect to the other candidate this year, but added that Obama could probably sustain a larger defection rate and still win since Democrats hold a substantial lead in party identification this year.

"Occasionally, as in 1964 for the GOP and 1972 for the Democrats, the defection rate soars," Sabato said, referencing the respective years Barry Goldwater had the Republican nomination and George McGovern was the Democratic nominee. "But Obama and McCain are not McGovern and Goldwater. The defection rate will be within traditional norms this year."

The party will likely be able to heal after the Democratic National Convention, predicts Gary Rose, political science professor at Sacred Heart University. But he said the divisive primary has left a mark on the Democratic Party.

"Look at the last times we had divided parties: The Democrats lost after 1968, the Republicans lost after 1976 and the Democrats lost in 1980 when they were divided," Rose told Cybercast News Service. "The Democratic Party is going to have to hang with Obama, but swing voters and independents might not be lured to the Democratic Party with such strife. It's injurious to the party."

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