Thursday, February 22, 2007

"A Little Hillary Reality"

John Nichols:
This writer is not a fan of the Democratic presidential candidacy of Hillary Clinton, whose centrist politics and certified insider status mark her as a something less than the change agent the country is going to need after two terms of Bushism. But a certain penchant for political realism leads me to point out a fact about the fast-starting 2008 presidential race that merits mention: The senator from New York is opening up a significant lead not just among grassroots Democrats but Americans in general.
The new Harris Interactive poll of 3,423 potential voters nationwide finds that among all adults -- Democrats, Republicans and Independents -- Clinton is the clear favorite. According to the Harris analysts, "Fully 45 percent would consider voting for her compared to 37 percent for [Illinois Senator] Obama, 29 percent for [former New York Mayor Rudy] Giuliani, 28 percent for [former North Carolina Senator John] Edwards, 26 percent for [Arizona Senator John] McCain and 26 percent for [former Vice President] Al Gore."

Forced to choose one favorite among all the candidates, fully 20 percent of those surveyed selected the senator from New York, as compared with only 10 percent for the next strongest contender, Obama. The top Republican, Giuliani, could muster just eight percent, while the supposed superstar of the contest, McCain, was at six percent.

Of course, it is necessary to note that national surveys do not tell us what will happen in early caucuses and primaries. [For the record, recent polls from Iowa and New Hampshire have Clinton running well.] But they do suggest that those who claim that Hillary Clinton would be a dangerously unpopular nominee for the Democrats are stuck in a timewarp.

There may have been a time when the former First Lady was a toxic contender. But that the numbers today do not suggest she is nearly so unelectable as her detractors -- and even some of her fans -- might think.

Opinions of presidential contenders evolve. And the evolution for Clinton appears to be a favorable one.

Certainly, there are still plenty of Clinton haters out there -- most of them on the far right and many of them with syndicated talk radio programs or gigs as Fox News commentators.

But, according to the Harris poll, the New York senator is the clear frontrunner among Democrats, the first choice among Independents and she does better among Republicans than any of the other Democrats. These numbers compare reasonably well with details from other recent surveys.

None of this means that Hillary Clinton should be the Democratic nominee.

What it does mean, however, is that she may well be the nominee.

And if she nominated, she may well be elected.

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