Thursday, November 8, 2007

Hillary Clinton is Vulnerable

The new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll shows Hillary Clinton remaining vulnerable on issues of trust and ideology. Here's the introduction:

Democrats enter the 2008 election campaign with powerful political advantages but face a tough and unpredictable battle because of the vulnerabilities of front-runner Hillary Clinton and the Democratic-controlled Congress.

A Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll shows that Americans have turned sharply away from President Bush and toward domestic issues favoring his partisan adversaries. Majorities believe the Iraq war can't be won and want most U.S. troops withdrawn by the dawn of a new president's term in 2009.

But offsetting that demand for change in the presidential contest are reservations about Sen. Clinton's truthfulness and ideology, even as Americans applaud her experience and leadership qualities. The result: She is in a virtual dead heat with leading Republican candidate Rudy Giuliani when the two are matched up.

The electorate's shifting agenda "does tilt the field against Republicans," said Republican pollster Bill McInturff, who helps conduct the Journal/NBC survey. And yet his Democratic counterpart, Peter Hart, said, "This is an exceptionally close election" less than a year before Election Day.

Mrs. Clinton's rivals in both parties are moving to exploit the doubts revealed by the survey, which was conducted after last week's Democratic debate at which she faced accusations of evasiveness and double talk. Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois used humor over the weekend, doffing a Halloween mask on the "Saturday Night Live" television program and declaring, "I have nothing to hide." Former Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina has attacked more sharply, challenging Mrs. Clinton in Iowa to remain in "tell-the-truth mode all the time."

Messrs. Edwards and Obama both run even against Mr. Giuliani, too, matching Mrs. Clinton's standing even though they aren't as well known as she is. But Mr. Obama would enter a general election with serious vulnerabilities of his own, since just 30% of Americans rate him positively on having enough experience for the presidency and just 29% rate him positively on "being a good commander in chief."

Mr. Giuliani has maintained an aggressive stance toward his in-state rival for the White House. While promoting his antiterror credentials with tough talk on Iran, the former New York City mayor slammed Mrs. Clinton for displaying "the worst of the Clinton years" by equivocating in the debate on driver's licenses for illegal immigrants. "If you think a question about driver's licenses is a tough question, a gotcha question, you're not ready for [Iranian leader Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad," Mr. Giuliani told a New Hampshire town hall meeting a few days ago.
Read the whole thing.

I've got a couple of recent posts on the shape of the 2008 elections (see
here and here). Things are trending well for the Democrats. But as the Wall Street Journal poll shows here, in head to head match-ups Hillary Clinton, the presumptive Democratic standard-bearer, is essentially tied with her Republican challengers. Especially interesting are Hillary's high negatives:

While a 51% majority gives her high marks for being "knowledgeable and experienced enough to handle the presidency," pluralities rate Mrs. Clinton negatively on honesty, likability and sharing their positions on the issues.
As I've said before, Republicans need to run an especially effective campaign. I think Clinton can be beat, but she's going to be formidable, despite of her recent gaffes.