Sunday, September 23, 2007

Hillary Clinton: Albatross or Millstone?

That's the finding of Democratic pollster Celinda Lake:

A recent survey by Democratic pollster Celinda Lake, however, showed Clinton and Obama trailing former New York mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani (R) in the 31 Democratic-held House districts regarded as most imperiled in 2008, and even potentially serving as a drag on those lawmakers' reelection chances.

The poll was conducted in August but has not been previously reported. It paints a "sobering picture" for Democrats, according to a memo by Lake and Daniel Gotoff that accompanies the poll report.

Giuliani takes 49 percent to Clinton's 39 percent, while the former mayor's lead over Obama is far smaller, 41 percent to 40 percent. "Despite Obama's relative advantage over Clinton, both candidates are significantly underperforming against the generic Democratic edge in the presidential and even against party identification," Lake and Gotoff wrote.

The news gets worse for Obama and Clinton as one delves deeper into the survey.

While the average lead of Democratic House members stands at 19 percentage points in the 31 vulnerable districts -- all but two of which are part of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee's incumbent-protection program known as Frontline -- that number sinks considerably when the lawmakers are linked to either front-runner.

"Some people say [your Democratic incumbent] is a strong supporter of Hillary Clinton and will support her liberal agenda of big government and higher taxes if she becomes president," the poll stated, before asking respondents whether they would still vote for their incumbent or choose a Republican candidate.

Whether the question named Clinton or Obama, the Democratic incumbent's lead shrank to an average of six points: 47 percent to 41 percent with Clinton leading the ticket, 44 percent to 38 percent with Obama as the nominee.

Recall too, that this is the finding in the 31 most endangered Democratic seats -- most of them held by freshmen who won last year. As Members seeking their first re-election, they are inherently vulnerable.

But if this is the outcome in the Democratic seats, what will it be in the GOP-held seats? Right now Democrats speak confidently of expanding their majority; they're looking at the open seats of retiring Members like Ray LaHood, Deborah Pryce, Jim Ramstad, and others. But if Hillary or Barack is a drag in those seats held by Democrats, they will be a millstone around the necks of challengers in GOP-leaning seats.

It all calls to mind that wonderful Hillary 'defense' from Representative Earl Pomeroy:

“It’s way too early to conclude that Hillary would be a disaster downballot for the party”

I'm not sure it is too early.

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