Rove calls Clin­ton neg­a­tives a good sign

Boosts Repub­li­can hopes for 2008

The Washington Times Weekly - - Front Page - By Sean Lengell and Don­ald Lam­bro

Out­go­ing White House po­lit­i­cal ad­viser Karl Rove says Sen. Hil­lary Rod­ham Clin­ton’s po­lar­iz­ing na­ture and grow­ing pub­lic dis­ap­proval of the Demo­crat-led Congress will make it dif­fi­cult for the Democrats to cap­ture the pres­i­dency in 2008, de­spite the Repub­li­cans’ low polling num­bers.

“She en­ters the pri­mary sea­son with the high­est neg­a­tives of any front-run­ner since the his­tory of polling be­gan,” said Mr. Rove on CBS’ “Face the Na­tion” on Aug. 19. “She has more peo­ple who have an un­fa­vor­able im­pres­sion of her than have a fa­vor­able im­pres­sion. And that’s not just in one poll, but in mul­ti­ple polls.”

Mr. Rove, who said he be­lieves Mrs. Clin­ton will win the Demo­cratic pres­i­den­tial nom­i­na­tion, added the for­mer first lady will have great dif­fi­culty con­vinc­ing Repub­li­cans or un­de­cided vot­ers to trust her with their vote.

“Peo­ple have made an opin­ion about her,” Mr. Rove said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “It’s hard to change opin­ions once you’ve been a high-profile per­son in the pub­lic eye, as she has, for 16 or 17 years.”

The New York sen­a­tor con­tin­ues to hold a strong lead over her chief ri­vals for the 2008 Demo­cratic nom­i­na­tion. But she also draws the high­est neg­a­tive rat­ings of any of the Demo­cratic con­tenders when poll­sters ask vot­ers if they have a fa­vor­able or un­fa­vor­able opin­ion of each can­di­date.

A USA To­day/Gallup sur­vey con­ducted Aug. 3-5 found that 49 per­cent of the 1,012 Amer­i­cans polled said they had an un­fa­vor­able opin­ion of her, while 47 per­cent were fa­vor­able. The mar­gin of er­ror was three per­cent­age points.

Gallup has asked the un­fa­vor­able/fa­vor­able ques­tion through­out the year, and since March the un­fa­vor­able num­bers for Mrs. Clin­ton have var­ied lit­tle, ris­ing to 52 per­cent in April but drop­ping to 50 per­cent in June and mostly re­main­ing at 48 per­cent or 49 per­cent since.

Th­ese high un­fa­vor­able scores in na­tional pres­i­den­tial ap­proval polls have raised con­cerns in her party that she could hurt Demo­cratic can­di­dates in close con­gres­sional and lo­cal races if she is the nom­i­nee next year.

De­spite her dou­ble-digit lead over the rest of the Demo­cratic field, “the ‘Hil­lary hos­til­ity’ fac­tor is con­stant and feeds doubts about whether she can win in Novem­ber 2008. That polling peren­nial — her un­fa­vor­a­bil­ity fac­tor — re­mains high,” said Mau­rice Car­roll, di­rec­tor of the Quin­nip- iac Univer­sity Polling In­sti­tute.

“Hil­lary would be a drag on races lower on the bal­lot,” wrote Markos Moulit­sas ear­lier this year on his fiery lib­eral po­lit­i­cal blog, Daily Kos. “In fact, her po­ten­tial nom­i­na­tion is al­ready cre­at­ing all sorts of headaches for Se­nate and House re­cruit­ment ef­forts in tough states and dis­tricts. This is a dy­namic not at play with any of the other se­ri­ous can­di­dates.”

Writ­ing in the Na­tional Jour­nal late last month, Marc Am­binder re- ported that “some Democrats fret about state leg­is­la­tors in mar­ginal dis­tricts.”

“And sev­eral fresh­man mem­bers of Congress have told their po­lit­i­cal con­sul­tants that they’re not quite sure what im­pact Clin­ton will have,” he wrote.

Con­cerns about her per­sis­tently high un­fa­vor­ables have be­come part of the back­room buzz in Demo­cratic cir­cles, party cam­paign strate­gists say, though none will say it on the record. And other an­a­lysts say it is too early to mea­sure what ef­fect her neg­a­tives will have on her party next year.

“Peo­ple are con­cerned about her un­fa­vor­ables, but I think it is way too early to use that as an in­di­ca­tor of what is go­ing to hap­pen in Novem­ber should she be­come the nom­i­nee,” said Bud Jack­son, a Demo­cratic cam­paign strate­gist. “I think [the polling num­bers] should give you pause, but I don’t think it’s alarm bells ring­ing off. There’s time and op­por­tu­nity for Hil­lary Clin­ton to im- prove those num­bers.”

Dur­ing an Aug. 19 de­bate in Iowa among the Demo­cratic pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates, Mrs. Clin­ton said Mr. Rove’s crit­i­cisms of her shows that Repub­li­cans fear her can­di­dacy.

“I find it in­ter­est­ing he’s so ob­sessed with me,” Mrs. Clin­ton said. “I think the rea­son is be­cause we know how to win. [. . . ] I have been fight­ing against th­ese peo­ple for longer than any­body else up here. I’ve taken them on, and we’ve beaten them.”

Mr. Rove, who is step­ping down at the end of the month as White House deputy chief of staff, said the top Repub­li­cans pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates are more in keep­ing with the at­ti­tudes, val­ues and views of most vot­ers.

“With the strong can­di­dates we’ve got — [Ari­zona Sen. John] McCain, [for­mer Ten­nessee Sen. Fred] Thompson, [for­mer Mas­sachusetts Gov. Mitt] Rom­ney, [for­mer New York Mayor Ru­dolph W.] Gi­u­liani and oth­ers — we’ll have an ex­cel­lent chance to keep the White House,” Mr. Rove said on “Fox News Sun­day.”

“At the same time [. . .] take a look at the very sharp de­cline in pop­u­lar­ity of the Demo­cratic Congress, which was at very high lev­els seven months ago and has plum­meted way be­low where the pres­i­dent has.”

Mr. Rove brushed aside con­cerns about Repub­li­cans’ own low polling num­bers, say­ing that “there’s plenty of time” to win over vot­ers.

“There are sev­eral ge­o­log­i­cal ages that are go­ing to come and go be­fore the 2008 elec­tion,” he said.

“Face the Na­tion” via As­so­ci­ated Press

Sen. John McCain (left) and Bush ad­viser Karl Rove chat­ted be­fore ap­pear­ing sep­a­rately on CBS’ “Face the Na­tion” on Aug. 19.

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