Hil­lary’s early lead fad­ing in key states

The Washington Times Weekly - - Front Page - By Don­ald Lam­bro

Sen. Hil­lary Rod­ham Clin­ton’s pop­u­lar­ity in Demo­cratic pres­i­den­tial-pref­er­ence polls has fallen in the na­tion’s first cau­cus and pri­mary states in the face of in­creas­ing sup­port for her chief ri­vals for the 2008 nom­i­na­tion.

Poll­sters said her weak­nesses in Iowa and New Hamp­shire were the re­sult of the grow­ing pop­u­lar­ity of two ma­jor op­po­nents — for­mer North Carolina Sen. John Ed­wards and Illi­nois Sen. Barack Obama — and their pop­ulist eco­nomic mes­sages, as well as a deep­en­ing an­tipa­thy to­ward her among Demo­cratic-lean­ing in­de­pen­dents who dis­like her sup­port for the war in Iraq and who ques­tion her electabil­ity.

“I think Hil­lary strikes th­ese vot­ers the same way Sen­a­tor John Kerry did in 2004. They would re­ally like to vote for some­one they re­ally like this time. Hil­lary doesn’t fit that char­ac­ter­i­za­tion right now,” said poll­ster Del Ali of Re­search 2000, who con­ducted polls in both Iowa and New Hamp­shire.

His find­ings mir­ror more re­cent polling show­ing a sim­i­lar na­tional de­cline in sup­port. “There’s been ero­sion,” said poll­ster John Zogby. “She’s polling in the low- to mid-40s na­tion­ally.”

The New York Demo­crat, who

has been her party’s clear fron­trun­ner, came in a dis­tant fourth in an Iowa pres­i­den­tial poll of 600 likely vot­ers con­ducted Dec. 18 to 20, draw­ing 10 per­cent in a crowded field of con­tenders. Mr. Ed­wards, the Democrats’ 2004 vice-pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nee, and Mr. Obama were tied in first place with 22 per­cent each, fol­lowed by out­go­ing Iowa Gov. Tom Vil­sack with 12 per­cent.

In New Hamp­shire, whose firstin-the-na­tion pri­mary fol­lows the Iowa cau­cuses, polls showed Mrs. Clin­ton in a dead heat with Mr. Obama, who was greeted like a rock star in a whirl­wind of stand­ing-room-only ap­pear­ances across the state last month and has since seen his po­lit­i­cal sup­port sky­rocket na­tion­ally.

Mrs. Clin­ton and Mr. Obama drew 22 per­cent and 21 per­cent re­spec­tively late last month, while Mr. Ed­wards took third place with 16 per­cent. One month be­fore, Mr. Obama was trail­ing Mrs. Clin­ton by 23 points.

Mr. Ali, who in­ter­viewed 600 likely vot­ers in New Hamp­shire, said its elec­torate was made up of “a lot of in­de­pen­dents. Th­ese are the same peo­ple who loathe [Pres­i­dent] Bush, loathe the Iraq war. But deep down, they don’t like Hil­lary Clin­ton,” he told the Con­cord Mon­i­tor.

In a tele­phone in­ter­view with The Wash­ing­ton Times, he said, “Her chief ri­vals are very much against the Iraq war and pre­fer that we be­gin with­drawal. I don’t think they trust her, to be hon­est with you.

“Part of the rea­son is that among the can­di­dates, she seems the most sup­port­ive of the war in Iraq and ap­pears less crit­i­cal of Pres­i­dent Bush than the other can­di­dates,” he said.

Mrs. Clin­ton, who is re­port­edly plan­ning to an­nounce her 2008 can­di­dacy some­time this month, has yet to cam­paign in New Hamp­shire. Democrats in the state say they ex­pect her ap­proval num­bers to im­prove once she be­gins ac­tive cam­paign­ing.

“You can­not un­der­es­ti­mate Sen­a­tor Clin­ton. She has a unique at­tribute no one else has. She is ex­tremely well-known, has a very good war chest, the abil­ity to raise a lot of money and has a great spouse, Bill Clin­ton, who will be sup­port­ing her,” said Jim De­mers, a vet­eran party strate­gist in the state.

How­ever, Mr. De­mers, who in­tends to sup­port Mr. Obama if he de­cides to run, said most of the party’s ac­tivists were “un­com­mit­ted and wait­ing for Sen­a­tor Clin­ton to come in be­fore they start mak­ing up their minds.”

Agence France-Presse / Getty Images

Sen. Hil­lary Rod­ham Clin­ton was bested by for­mer Sen. John Ed­wards, Sen. Barack Obama and out­go­ing Iowa Gov. Tom Vil­sack in an Iowa poll and was tied with Mr. Obama in a New Hamp­shire poll.

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