Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Runaway Train: Hillary's White House Years

Readers will recall that I've likened the inevitability of Hillary Clinton's 2008 Democratic nomination to the potential disaster of a "runaway train." I've also suggested that - like her or not - she'll bring to the White House a degree of top-level experience rarely seen in the history of the presidency.

It turns out that a plurality of the public holds a similar view on Clinton's political credentials.
The background story to the new Los Angeles Times poll has the details:

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton has neutralized the political fallout from some of the most difficult moments of her eight years as first lady, with Democratic voters looking favorably on her failed effort to revamp healthcare and either supporting or having no opinion of her decision to remain loyal to an unfaithful husband, a new Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg poll shows.

The positive impression of Clinton's White House years -- which is shared, though more faintly, among the broader public -- is helping propel her to a formidable lead over her rivals for the Democratic presidential nomination. Clinton leads the No. 2 contender, Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois, 48% to 17%.

Her support has risen 15 percentage points since the last nationwide Times/Bloomberg poll in June, while Obama's support has fallen 5 percentage points.

As a leading actor in her husband's presidency, Clinton entered the race for the White House linked tightly to his legacy of personal scandal and political polarization. But today, the Times/Bloomberg poll found, nearly two-thirds of Democrats and nearly half of all voters say Hillary Clinton's famously unsuccessful effort in the 1990s to provide health coverage for all Americans makes her better able now to deal with healthcare as president.

More than 7 in 10 Democrats, and about half of all voters, said they would welcome a White House advisory role for Bill Clinton, who jokes that he would be called "first laddy" if his wife became president.

And 42% of Democrats agreed it was the "right thing" for Hillary Clinton to stick with her husband after his affair with a White House intern, compared with 5% who said it was the wrong choice.

At the same time, the former first lady remains a polarizing figure -- viewed unfavorably by 44% of respondents. But a favorable rating of 48% is relatively high for Clinton.
Read the whole thing.

Note that Clinton has considerably high negatives, which create some problems for her general electability. Still, voters view Hillary and Bill Clinton as a team, and her husband's popularity makes up for some of the distrust toward Hillary in the polling numbers.

The Times poll also holds some interesting findings on the Republicans. While Rudy Giuliani leads the pack with national support at 32 percent (more than twice that for Fred Thompson, the next most favored candidate in the GOP field), local polls in Iowa and New Hampshire have Mitt Romney on top. In South Carolina, Thomspon's got the lead among Republican primary voters.

Also interesting is that
John McCain's the leading Republican candidate in hypothetical head-to-head match-ups against Clinton. Based on such comparisons, National Review's Kate O'Beirne argued recently that McCain deserves a second look. I'm pulling for him, in any case.

As for Hillary,
I hate her flip-flopping. But for an even more critical look at Hillary's candidacy, check out Gayle's blog, where she's putting up some powerful commentaries against a Hillary Clinton presidency.