Monday, October 29, 2007

Is Hillary a Sure Loser?

Jim Geraghty has a significant post on Hillary's floor and ceiling:

Pollster Scott Rasmussen just shared this fascinating observation in an interview: When you average the head-to-head matchups with Hillary Clinton vs. any of the Republicans, she's always getting 46 to 49 percent against any of them.

"When we polled her against Ron Paul, she got 48 percent of the vote. When we polled on Ron Paul among people who knew who Ron Paul is, she got 48 percent of the vote. When we polled among people who didn’t know who Ron Paul is, she got 48 percent percent of the vote."

Paul got 38 percent against Hillary.

"In individual head-to-heads with Giuliani it's essentially a toss up, Thompson trails a little, but they’re all close," Rasmussen continued. "Clinton and Giuliani, in 11 polls, were within two points of 45 percent - basically ranging from 43 to 47 percent. It reminded me of Election 2004, where after Kerry won the nomination, for more than 60 days," Kerry and Bush remained quite close to each other.

"She’s becoming like the incumbent... Republicans are talking about Clinton a lot, partially because they would rather talk about her than the incumbent president, but also because now part of being a conservative is challenging Hillary Clinton."
The actual Rasmussen release on this point is here:
A look at the crosstabs demonstrates that it is attitudes towards Clinton that are driving the numbers in this polling match-up. Among all voters, Clinton attracts 48% support. Among the voters who have never heard of Ron Paul or don’t know enough to have an opinion, guess what. Clinton attracts the exact same total--48% of the vote. So whether or not people have heard of Ron Paul as the challenger, support for Clinton doesn’t change.

Among the 51% who have heard of Ron Paul but don’t have a Very Favorable opinion of him, Clinton attracts 49% of the vote...

So, outside of a small group of avid Ron Paul fans, support for Senator Clinton is unchanged whether or not the survey respondent has ever heard of Ron Paul.
Hillary has nearly universal name identification. Nearly every American has an opinion of her. And regardless of what Americans know or don't know about her potential opponents, a majority refuses to vote for her -- even against the weakest and most obscure candidate in the GOP field.

These are [ie, look like -- the Editor] the polls of an unpopular incumbent, destined to be defeated for re-election: name ID is huge, voters' opinions are set. When these are the last few polls that you see before election day, you recall that undecideds break against the incumbent by a huge margin. You conclude that it will take a miracle to pull through on election day.

You don't quite draw such a conclusion this far out of course; election day is simply too far off and too much can change. The Republican opponent could be savaged in advertising, so much that he is unelectable. There might be a 3rd party candidate who reduces the threshold for victory. It's even conceivable that you might be able to 'reintroduce' the candidate, and move some of the voters who seem so firmly against you. But a candidate forced to resort to one of these strategies is someone already in trouble.

I've said before that Hillary is the closest thing to a 'status quo' candidate there is among either Republicans or Democrats. In a change election, any Republican trumps her as the candidate of change. Now it's gotten so bad for her that she's starting to be viewed as almost the incumbent -- a terrible place to be when the electorate is looking for something different.

Hillary is starting to seem like the least electable Democrat.

Update: Donna Brazile thinks that the electability argument is the way to go after Hillary as well:

"I want to see if John Edwards will say to Hillary Clinton in front of everyone: 'You're not electable, and you know it, and you're going to hurt people down the ballot,' " said Brazile, who hasn't endorsed anyone. "It's time to stop whispering. It's getting to be midnight."


Jazz said...

This analysis seems to go well until it falls apart on one quote.

And regardless of what Americans know or don't know about her potential opponents, a majority refuses to vote for her -- even against the weakest and most obscure candidate in the GOP field.

If you click through to the referenced Rasmussen report on the floor and ceiling, you find this:

Looking at core support and opposition on a net basis, Clinton also comes out on top in October. With 35% saying they will definitely vote for her and 46% definitely voting against, Clinton’s net is minus 11 points.

Giuliani’s net number is minus 14 (29% definitely for and 43% definitely against). Thompson is close behind at minus 15 (24% for, 39% against).

Somehow, unless they have changed the "new math" again, 46% (definitely voting against Clinton) doesn't sound like a "majority" to me. It leaves out the undecideds, and Clinton actually needs to win over fewer of them than any of the Republicans currently in the running to go over the top. Your conclusion drawn from these numbers seems a bit... optimistic to say the least.

The Editor at IP said...

Thanks for the comment.

It's nice that 'only' 46 percent say they would definitely vote against her, but it's irrelevant. People say one thing and do another.

The test is how she fares in contrast to other candidates. And the fact that she can't pull better than 49 percent -- that is, the fact that a majority consistently opposes her -- is a serious warning sign for her candidacy.

You argue that one has to consider undecideds. That's true. They typically break about 3-to-1 or 4-to-1 against the incumbent.

While Hillary is not the incumbent, Rasmussen points out that she is perceived like one. Unless she can transform herself from the perceived incumbent to the perceived agent of change, she's likely to lose a wide share of the undecided vote.

All this translates into a candidate who appears today to have a ceiling of about 50 percent. And the fact that she does poorly even against an unknown like Ron Paul demonstrates that even among those who don't self-identify as 'definitely voting against her,' there remain some who are more or less dead-set against her. After all, if they won't back her against Ron Paul, what GOP candidate would they back her against?

None of this means that she is a definite loser. The Republican candidate could suffer a massive coronary the day before the election. Things happen. But this poll is a serious red flag for Hillary backers.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Jazz that this analysis falls apart - it's just that it falls apart in describing Ron Paul as "the weakest and most obscure candidate in the GOP field".

I'm not sure how a candidate who (a) outraises Tax Hike Mike Huckabee by FIVE TO ONE; (b) leads all other candidates in military contributions; (c) has already outlasted a former Cabinet official, a former RNC chairman, and a United States Senator can be described as "obscure".

Dr. Paul is in reality the strongest GOP candidate against Hillary because he neutralizes her on the one issue where she (claims that she) stands with the electorate: Iraq. He voted against it; she voted for it. He voted against saber-rattling against Iran; she voted for it.

While NO Republicans will desert their party to vote for "Hitlery", many Democrats motivated solely by the war will abandon her for Ron Paul. Combine this with Hillary's high negatives among independents and the attractiveness of Paul's "anti-establishment" cred to independents, and Paul wins going away.

Jazz said...

I agree with Charles, to a certain extent, and retract the comment describing Ron Paul as the *least* etc. He is definitely outperforming some of the 2nd/3rd tier GOP candidates and doing better in fund raising than anyone anticipated.

However, this does not change the fact that Dr. Paul has made himself a pariah in the Republican community for his unabashed opposition to the war. In a way, speaking as an opponent of the Iraq war, I wish he could somehow get the nomination. And I further agree that he could conceivably sway enough Democrats and moderates to beat Hillary in the general election.

However, in order to do that he would have to get the nomination, and it's simply not going to happen. That prize is reserved for either Rudy, Mitt or (long shot) Fred. Obviously the democrats won't take him as their candidate, and that only leaves the option of a 3rd party run. He could pull some votes from both parties if he did that, but I still can't conceive of him getting more than 15% in a best case scenario. Too many people are simply too engrained in the two party system.