Hil­lary is no longer un­beat­able

The Washington Times Weekly - - Commentary - Don­ald Lam­bro

Hil­lary Clin­ton’s neg­a­tives keep climb­ing, rais­ing new ques­tions about her electabil­ity and im­prov­ing the prospects of her chief ri­vals for the 2008 Demo­cratic pres­i­den­tial nom­i­na­tion.

The New York sen­a­tor’s fa­vor­a­bil­ity rat­ings took a nose­dive in mid-April, drop­ping from 58 per­cent in Fe­bru­ary to 45 per­cent, ac­cord­ing to latest Gallup Poll. It was her low­est fa­vor­a­bil­ity score since 1993. A 52 per­cent ma­jor­ity of the vot­ers now say they have a neg­a­tive view of her can­di­dacy. That com­pares to her clos­est ri­val, Sen. Barack Obama, who was rated fa­vor­ably by 52 to 27 per­cent.

Mrs. Clin­ton still held on to her front-run­ner sta­tus in most polls two weeks ago, but poll­sters and po­lit­i­cal an­a­lysts tell me she is los­ing the sup­port of strate­gic blocs in her party’s base, in­clud­ing women, lib­er­als and in­de­pen­dents, who feel she has waf­fled on with­draw­ing U.S. troops from Iraq. “The re­cent de­cline in her im­age ap­pears to be broad-based” among most key voter sub­groups, Gallup said.

Even more trou­bling for her cam­paign, the Gallup poll of reg­is­tered vot­ers (taken April 13-15) also showed Mrs. Clin­ton los­ing her dou­ble-digit lead over Mr. Obama, who now trails her by a slim 5 per­cent­age points in the sur­vey (31 per­cent to 26 per­cent). In other polls, the two are vir­tu­ally tied.

Vet­eran cam­paign poll­sters, and many Demo­cratic strate­gists, shocked by her weak num­bers, no longer con­sider her the un­beat­able front-run­ner. “It’s still early in the cam­paign and it’s hard to bet against a Clin­ton; they’re win­ners. How­ever, the in­evitabil­ity fac­tor [in her can­di­dacy] is no longer there,” in­de­pen­dent poll­ster John Zogby told me.

Mr. Zogby has seen sim­i­lar clues in his own polling data in the first cau­cus and pri­mary con­tests that will be held in Jan­uary. The latest num­bers mean that, in key states, “where the cam­paigns have be­gun in earnest, you have very com­pet­i­tive races and se­ri­ous ques­tions about Hil­lary’s electabil­ity com­ing from Democrats.”

A re­cent Zogby poll in South Carolina, the first South­ern pri­mary con­test next year, showed her lead­ing Mr. Obama 32 per­cent to 22 per­cent. “That’s not par­tic­u­larly good,” for some­one with Mrs. Clin­ton’s broad name recog­ni­tion, he said.

The Clin­ton cam­paign is pri­vately con­cerned about her fa- vor­a­bil­ity poll scores, but pub­licly dis­misses the Gallup num­bers, play­ing up other polls that have shown her with much stronger leads. But Clin­ton spokesman Blake Zeff told me, “We are tak­ing noth­ing for granted and will work hard for ev­ery vote.”

Even so, her ane­mic head-to­head num­bers in the latest Gallup sur­vey, to­gether with her ris­ing neg­a­tives, dom­i­nated the Democrats’ back­room buzz two weeks ago. “Hil­lary isn’t wear­ing well. It seems as if the more peo­ple see her, the less they like her,” for­mer Bill Clin­ton cam­paign ad­viser Dick Mor­ris wrote at the Town Hall Web site. “Now for the first time, her low lik­a­bil­ity lev­els are cost­ing her votes, as Demo­cratic-party vot­ers are aban­don­ing her to sup­port Barack Obama,” Mr. Mor­ris said. “She is los­ing her base.”

Na­tional polls are sus­pect at this stage of the elec­tion cy­cle, which is re­ally all about the can­di­dates’ re­spec­tive strength in the key pri­maries and cau­cus states, es­pe­cially among key de­mo­graphic sub­groups that make up the base of their sup­port.

In Mrs. Clin­ton’s case, how­ever, Gallup found she had lost 7 per­cent of her fa­vor­a­bil­ity among women in gen­eral, 10 per­cent among younger women aged 18 to 49 and 11 per­cent among un­mar­ried women.

Mr. Zogby un­der­scores the cen­tral thrust of Gallup’s find­ings. Democrats ap­peared to be mov­ing away from Mrs. Clin­ton and to­ward her two chief ri­vals, Mr. Obama and for­mer North Carolina Sen. John Ed­wards, he said.

No­tably, Mr. Ed­wards, who has 16 per­cent sup­port in the na­tional Gallup poll, was still run­ning in first place in the latest Iowa cau­cus polls with 30.3 per­cent, fol­lowed by Mrs. Clin­ton with 26.8 per­cent and Mr. Obama with 19? per­cent.

Mr. Zogby’s other state-bystate polls fur­ther con­firm that Mrs. Clin­ton’s num­bers are noth­ing to write home about. “When you look at Hil­lary’s num­bers in the state polls, and the fact that she has 100 per­cent name recog­ni­tion among vot­ers, the fact that she’s polling in the 20s and low 30s is not good,” he said.

Mrs. Clin­ton’s or­ga­ni­za­tion has the best po­lit­i­cal strate­gists money can buy, led by the crafti­est Demo­cratic cam­paign Zen mas­ter on the planet, her hus­band Bill Clin­ton, who plays a cen­tral role in ev­ery de­ci­sion she makes.

But it’s not too pre­ma­ture to now say Mrs. Clin­ton’s cam­paign is in trou­ble.

Don­ald Lam­bro, chief po­lit­i­cal correspondent of The Wash­ing­ton Times, is a na­tion­ally syn­di­cated colum­nist.

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