Dems hold ’08 edge on GOP hope­fuls in ev­ery­thing but lik­a­bil­ity

The Washington Times Weekly - - National - By Don­ald Lam­bro

Democrats seem to have nearly ev­ery­thing go­ing their way in the 2008 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion cam­paign, ex­cept the most lik­able can­di­dates.

It is widely ac­knowl­edged that Repub­li­cans face an­other tough, can­di­date-killing cam­paign year as a re­sult of an un­pop­u­lar war in Iraq and a rash of ad­min­is­tra­tion scan­dals, but poll­sters and an­a­lysts say the party has one ma­jor ad­van­tage that could help them over­come the Democrats next year: Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial front-run­ners draw higher fa­vor­a­bil­ity rat­ings from vot­ers.

“In spite of a very fa­vor­able Demo­cratic en­vi­ron­ment, the pub­lic views the cur­rent Repub­li­can fron­trun­ners more pos­i­tively than the cur­rent Demo­cratic front-run­ners,” the Gallup Poll said in an anal­y­sis of how the 2008 elec­tion is shap­ing up.

Repub­li­can front-run­ners Ru­dolph W. Gi­u­liani, the for­mer New York mayor, and Sen. John McCain of Ari­zona “typ­i­cally re­ceive fa­vor­able rat­ings in the mid-50s to low 60s.” This com­pares with rat­ings in the low 50 per­cent range for Democrats Barack Obama, the sen­a­tor from Illi­nois, and for­mer Sen. John Ed­wards of North Carolina, and es­pe­cially Sen. Hil­lary Rod­ham Clin­ton of New York, whose ap­proval rat­ings “have de­scended into the 40s,” Gallup said.

Other in­de­pen­dent polls, with few ex­cep­tions, con­ducted last month ap­pear to sup­port Gallup’s anal­y­sis. A Fox News poll of 900 vot­ers gave a 55 per­cent fa­vor­able score to Mr. Gi­u­liani and 49 per­cent to Mr. McCain. This com­pared with 46 per­cent fa­vor­able rat­ings for Mrs. Clin­ton and Mr. Obama.

A CBS poll of reg­is­tered vot­ers con­ducted April 9 to 12 showed Mrs. Clin­ton with an un­fa­vor­able rat­ing of 46 per­cent, com­pared with lower un­fa­vor­able scores of 37 per­cent and 28 per­cent for Mr. Gi­u­liani and Mr. McCain re­spec­tively.

“This Repub­li­can ad­van­tage in can­di­date pop­u­lar­ity at this point may be off­set­ting the Demo­cratic ad­van­tage in the po­lit­i­cal en­vi­ron­ment,” the polling or­ga­ni­za­tion said.

Even Democrats ac­knowl­edge sev­eral points in the Gallup anal­y­sis, though few are will­ing to do so pub­licly at this point in the cam­paign.

“Lik­a­bil­ity is a po­ten­tial prob­lem for the Democrats. There’s a great deal of truth in what [Gallup] is say­ing,” said Bud Jack­son, a Demo­cratic cam­paign con­sul­tant.

In­de­pen­dent an­a­lysts, too, say the Repub­li­can Party could over­come a hos­tile po­lit­i­cal en­vi­ron­ment with a more ap­peal­ing nom­i­nee.

“The Democrats start with an ad­van­tage in the po­lit­i­cal en­vi­ron­ment, but not with an ad­van­tage that is so over­whelm­ing at this point that we could say the Repub­li­cans could not win,” said elec­tion an­a­lyst Stu­art Rothen­berg.

“But it’s likely their abil­ity to win next year will de­pend on the per­sonal ap­peal of the two nom­i­nees,” he said.

Among Demo­cratic front-run­ners, no one has ex­pe­ri­enced a deeper loss in per­sonal ap­peal with gen­eral elec­tion vot­ers than Mrs. Clin­ton — rais­ing ques­tions about her electabil­ity in the minds of some Democrats and hopes among many Repub­li­cans that she will be the Demo­cratic nom­i­nee.

Her fa­vor­a­bil­ity rat­ings soared to nearly 60 per­cent ear­lier this year, “but by mid-April they had plum­meted to 45 per­cent. Among the well-known con­tenders in both par­ties, only [Repub­li­can Newt] Gin­grich is less pop­u­lar at this point,” Gallup said.

“She is also less likely than Obama to be seen as lik­able,” the polling group said.

That lik­a­bil­ity deficit in Mrs. Clin­ton’s can­di­dacy has be­come a grow­ing topic of dis­cus­sion in some Demo­cratic cir­cles.

“It’s cer­tainly true that this trend of de­clin­ing fa­vor­a­bil­ity rat­ings is trou­bling. An im­por­tant fac­tor for any of the can­di­dates is their lik­a­bil­ity and whether the vot­ers think they care about them,” Mr. Jack­son said.

In­de­pen­dent an­a­lysts say there is plenty of time for her to turn around her high un­fa­vor­able scores.

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