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Editorial: Democrats can't hide bitterness

A TV viewer couldn't help but feel the anger and bitterness coming from the Hillary Clinton presidential campaign the past few days. Her spokesman, the down-and-dirty Harold Ickes, led the effort to characterize the action of the National Democratic Party's rules committee as outrageous and unfair, regarding the apportionment of delegates from renegade states Michigan and Florida.

Ickes and Clinton's other campaign people were especially critical of the party's Michigan decision because Barack Obama, who honored the party's sanctions against the state for moving its primary ahead of Iowa and New Hampshire, removed his name from the ballot. Obama's decision to abide by the rules apparently means little to Clinton's backers.

Ickes said the Clinton camp still has options: appealing to the Credentials Committee and taking the matter to the floor of the national convention. He did not say the campaign would go with the latter option, but the emotion, anger and harsh words against the Obama campaign suggest the tussle between the two Democrats could rage into the August convention in Denver.

John McCain must be smiling. The Republican standard-bearer has been able to spend his time solidifying a sometimes squishy Republican base, raising money and making statesmanlike speeches and comments about foreign and domestic policy. In other words, acting presidential.

Obama and Clinton, on the other hand, have tried to be civil to each other, but their surrogates have been anything but civil. The party itself has been savaged by the likes of Ickes and others because of the rules committee's decision on the Florida and Michigan delegations.

Obama is only some 50 delegates from winning the nomination, but even after Tuesday's final primaries in Montana and South Dakota, he won't have enough to put him over the top, and she won't have enough to catch him. The final count will fall to the uncommitted superdelegates. Obama believes he has shown his ability to win key primary and caucus states, so the superdelegates should break for him. Clinton counters that she's won far more popular votes in big and small states, so the superdelegates would do well to support her because she would be a stronger candidate against McCain.

But the rules say delegates determine the Democratic nominee. The rules say the candidate who wins the most regular delegates and superdelegates gets the prize. At this point, the math strongly suggests Obama will be the nominee.

Which raises the question: Will the very unhappy Clinton Democrats abandon Obama? Democratic leaders say no. They insist the party will come together. But will it?

The party's history is littered with nominees who survived bruising fights for the nomination only to lose in November because the Democratic base had been bitterly divided. The fight between Obama and Clinton, no matter how they make nice to each other in public, is as divisive and rancorous as anything in the recent past.

Democrats could very well be watching this saga play out on the convention floor. John McCain will be cheering them on.