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CAMPAIGN '08: RACE FOR THE WHITE HOUSE

Some delegates consider their own fate

Lawmakers who face reelection struggle to make a choice that can affect them politically: whom to endorse.

April 07, 2008|Janet Hook | Times Staff Writer

Republicans often seem to be rooting for Clinton because they believe she will be a bigger liability than Obama -- both in the presidential campaign and in congressional races.

That is why Altmire fears that a Clinton nomination would energize conservatives -- not just in his district, but nationwide -- who otherwise would be lukewarm about McCain's candidacy.

"It would affect Democrats across the country with more [conservatives] showing up in greater numbers and passion," Altmire said.

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'Unenviable position'

But others think Obama may be an equal drag on the ticket once Democrats in conservative regions learn more about his voting record on issues such as gun control and immigration. National Journal magazine has ranked him as the most liberal member of the Senate.

"Democrats are in the unenviable position of having to choose between the most liberal member of the U.S. Senate and Hillary Clinton," said Ken Spain, a spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Committee. "For a large number of newly elected Democrats, latching on to either of the potential Democratic nominees is a political death knell."

Rep. Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said incumbents could see their political interests served by either candidate because each had demonstrated an ability to drive record numbers of voters to the polls.

But Clinton and Obama also risk damaging the party if their bitter primary fight poisons the party's environment, Van Hollen said.

"If the tone of the primary campaign turns even nastier, the wounds will be difficult to heal," said Van Hollen, who is unaligned in the contest.

"That will hurt not just the nominee, but the rest of us."

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janet.hook@latimes.com

Times staff writer Mark Z. Barabak contributed to this report.

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