Friday, December 08, 2006

Clinton, McCain, Giuliani Have Big Leads

CQ Politics summarizes the results of two recent polls of the Presidential candidates in both parties. In short, Clinton, Giuliani, and McCain are far ahead of the other contenders:

Clinton was supported by 33 percent of respondents in both surveys. Her closest competition comes from three people who, like her, have not officially declared their intentions: 2000 presidential nominee Al Gore, freshman Illinois Sen. Barack Obama and former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards...

Among Republicans, the surveys showed former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani and Arizona Sen. John McCain leading the pack.

Giuliani led in both surveys, though he was statistically tied with McCain in the Marist poll, which showed Giuliani at 24 percent compared to 23 percent for McCain. The Fox News poll gave Giuliani a larger lead over McCain, 30 percent to 23 percent.

The Marist poll also showed solid support for Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who was backed by 15 percent of respondents. Rice, who has consistently denied holding presidential aspirations, was not included in the Fox News poll.

As I read this poll, one thing occurred to me. In recent elections, the frequency of polling has become a problem for the trailing candidate. With major polls coming out every few days, news stories focus relentlessly on the horse race, and those stories overshadow every effort by the trailing candidate to cut into the opponent's lead. The polls tend to cement the status quo.

Are we at the point where that's now happening in the primaries? How frequent are major primary polls now, as compared to previous years? It seems to me we have more polls this early than ever before. Are those polls going to reinforce the leads that Clinton, Giuliani and McCain have, and make it harder for challengers to break through? It seems very likely to me that it will be harder than ever for 'second-tier' challengers to break through, because CNN, MSNBC, and Fox will repeat the question ad nauseam, 'can Obama catch Clinton?' - or whatever it may be.

More from CQ:

What was unclear from their poll, Miringoff told, was whether voters’ impression of Clinton was implacable.

“There’s just a huge number of people who would not consider voting for Hillary Clinton; it’s close to half the electorate,” he said. “And that means she’s either got to drive that number down or there’s not a lot of room for error in the campaign.”

This point is made over and over: that nearly half the voters will never vote for Hillary. I think too much is made of this. Not too long ago, I heard Charlie Cook address this issue. He pointed out that while they won't say so up front, nearly half the electorate will vote against every candidate. That's the nature of politics today. Between 43 and 45 percent of the electorate will never vote for McCain. The same is true for Obama, or Giuliani, or Rice, or Richardson, or whoever - because the two parties have such well-defined bases of support and the true independents have shrunken so greatly.

So to say that 48% of the electorate (or whatever the number) will never vote against Hillary is really only to say that the opposition to her is slightly more defined than it is for other Democrats. Either way, she can still make it to a majority; it's just slightly more challenging for her than others.

Back to the top.

No comments: