SAN DIEGO, California (CNN) -- For Democrats, this has been an inspiring election -- and a devastating one. They have two strong candidates, who have thus far wrestled to a draw.
Ruben Navarrette Jr.: Democrats do have one thing working in their favor -- Republicans.
As of today, according to CNN's calculations, Hillary Clinton has 1,148 delegates; Barack Obama, 1,121. Yet the race has divided the party -- female vs. male, white vs. black, black vs. Latino.
The Virginia primary is Tuesday. The Clintons have to get past former Gov. Doug Wilder who thinks Bill Clinton went too far in using race to scare up support from white voters. All the king's horses and all the king's men can't put this rainbow back together again. What was once an embarrassment of riches is now, in many ways, just an embarrassment.
But Democrats do have one thing working in their favor -- Republicans. With their nominating process all but wrapped up and with a head start over squabbling Democrats who are going to spend the coming months destroying one another while the GOP can concentrate on unifying the party for the big show in the fall, you'd think Republicans would be celebrating. Instead, they're suicidal. Or at least that's the case with the loud and radical fringe that has declared John McCain unacceptable because he's a free thinker they can't control.
What if they could control him? So what? Where would they lead him -- to victory? C'mon. This bunch only knows how to lose. What good did the right-wingers do for their candidate, the cashmere chameleon Mitt Romney, who managed to run several campaigns at once, telling different groups of voters what they wanted to hear? Romney, in all his incarnations, washed out.
McCain carried 13 states, won about 5 million votes, and racked up more than 700 delegates. And, all along, he represented the best chance that Republicans have to stay competitive in this election.
A recent CNN poll, conducted by the Opinion Research Corp., shows Clinton 3 percentage points ahead of McCain, 50-47, in a hypothetical matchup. That's within the poll's margin of error, so it's a tie. In the same poll, Obama leads McCain by just 8 percentage points, 52-44. This was always going to be a tough year for the Republican nominee no matter who he was, but McCain keeps it close.
McCain's trouble on the right reminds one of California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. Here you have someone at odds with members of his own party who are eager to school him on how to be a real conservative -- on guns, gays, health care, immigration, abortion, and other issues where Schwarzenegger is too liberal for their taste.
And California Republicans have plenty of time to teach class because many don't have jobs. They've been voted out of office. And when they run for new offices, they get wiped out. All Schwarzenegger has done is win two statewide elections and earn a favorability rating of more than 60 percent. So who should be learning from whom?
Who is Schwarzenegger's choice for president? Oh look. It's John McCain.
Ruben Navarrette Jr. is a member of the editorial board of the San Diego Union-Tribune and a nationally syndicated columnist. You can read his column here.
The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the writer. E-mail to a friend
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