Hillary Is Very Beatable In 2008

While I think Dick Morris is a brilliant political operator and I was thrilled to get an interview with him, I can’t say that I agree with his thinking about Hillary Clinton’s prospects in 2008. Here’s what Dick had to say in the mini-interview I did with him…

“I also do not think that any of the other candidates (besides Condi) — Allen, Frist, Pataki, etc, can beat Hillary because of her lock on the black, Hispanic and women vote. So I am pushing for Condi Rice for President. As a social conservative, she can get the primary vote and can fight Hillary’s demographic base.”

Although Mr. Morris didn’t elaborate on why he thinks Hillary is such an unstoppable juggernaut in our interview, he does trot out some polling data in one of his columns that may explain his thinking…

“In a poll taken last month, Americans said they felt the New York Democrat was “qualified to be president of the United States” by 59-34 percent. Clinton showed strength among all traditional Democratic voters, winning the approval of Sen. John Kerry supporters by 80-13, blacks by 80-8, all women by 64-29 and unmarried women by 69-24 and people under 30 by 73-20.

But she also did well among more traditionally Republican constituencies. Men said she was qualified by 53-40. Southerners agreed by 55-36, as did those earning more than $75,000 per year, who felt she was qualified by 58-39. While 80 percent of liberals felt she was qualified, so did 59 percent of moderates and 43 percent of self-described conservatives. Incredibly, so did 33 percent of Republicans and 37 percent of Bush voters.

Of course, many of those voters would not actually support Hillary, and the Fox News poll was careful to precede the question by saying, “Regardless of whether you would vote for Hillary Clinton or not, …” the breadth of her acceptability indicates that she has passed the national threshold for political viability.

The Fox News poll tested Hillary against several possible 2008 GOP contenders and found that she ran ahead of Florida Gov. Jeb Bush by 46-35, ahead of New York Gov. George Pataki by 41-35 and ahead of Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-TN, by 40-33.

Nor is there any basis for believing the conventional GOP wisdom that a Hillary candidacy would trigger a backlash among men, conservatives and Republicans.

When Fox News matched the former first lady against Jeb Bush in a trial heat, Hillary’s numbers were similar to those former presidential candidate Kerry racked up in a parallel test.

Among men, for example, Hillary defeated Jeb Bush by 44-39 while Kerry broke even, 42-42. While 23 percent of conservatives supported Hillary against the president’s brother, only 21 percent backed Kerry in a similar contest.

Geographically, Hillary beat Southerners Jeb Bush and Frist in the South, beating Bush in the red-state region by 42-41 and Frist by 38-37. And, in the critical Midwest, where most swing states are located, Hillary ran 11 points ahead of Jeb Bush, 10 ahead of Frist and six ahead of Pataki.”

Two things about this data:

#1 Anyone who has risen to the level of US Senator and been on the job a few years could fairly be considered to be “qualified to be president of the United States,” so I’m not sure those numbers really mean anything.

#2 Hillary’s poll numbers in 2005, before any sort of campaign has begun, against people like Jeb Bush, Frist, & Pataki who most Americans aren’t all that familiar with, are again pretty close to meaningless.

Now that’s not to say that Hillary is a creampuff. She should be capable of uniting the Democratic base, she has proven she can raise money, the press adores her, and she’s smart enough to try to reach to the center, particularly with her anti-illegal immigrant pitch.

On the other hand, Hillary has some significant weaknesses as well.

First off, like Dukakis, Mondale, and Kerry, Hillary is a liberal, from a liberal state, with a liberal voting record. If there’s one thing that the GOP has shown over the 30 years, it’s that they can eat people like that for breakfast in Presidential elections.

If you look at candidates the Democrats have won with from 1972 on, you see two Southern Governors who were perceived — at least initially — to be moderates. Carter was thought to be a moderate in 1976 and after he proved himself to be a liberal in office, he was destroyed by Reagan in 1980. Clinton was also believed to be moderate in 1992, but he immediately moved to the left after being elected, which helped to pave the way for the 1994 GOP takeover of the House. Clinton was only able to retain the Presidency by moving sharply back to the center in the following two years (Also, I would note that Perot’s candidacy and two very weak GOP candidates helped Clinton get elected twice as well).

Moreover, Hillary Clinton has some frighteningly high negatives at this stage for someone who wants to run for President. In a Rasmussen poll done back in December of last year, Hillary was viewed unfavorably by 42% of the public. As a point of comparison, according to Strategic Vision’s polling, John Kerry had a ranking of 30% roughly two months before the election and finished just 1 point above where Clinton is now, at 43%, right at the end of the election. Now what is Hillary Clinton’s unfavorable rating going to look like after being hammered with a year’s worth of negative ads?

Then there’s the enormous amount of baggage she brings to the table from when her husband was President, her mercenary reputation, and her cold personality.

Again, I’m not saying that Hillary can’t win, but personally, I’d much rather see the GOP face Hillary in 2008 than a Democratic governor who’s perceived to be a centrist, like Mark R. Warner out of Virginia or Bill Richardson from New Mexico. Hillary’s a better candidate than a schlub like Kerry or a charisma-free windbag like Joe Biden, but she’s very beatable…

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