A Touchy Feely Poll

Not long ago I wrote extensively on the fact that the Democratic Party was clinging to conventional wisdom at their own peril; traditional conceptions of electability forcing them to miraculously choose thus far a candidate that is actually not the most electable.

Hillar Clinton.  Before the primary season even began, I, and many others have questioned her electability, the integrity of which was significantly challenged by the fact that she is one of the most polarizing figures in the Democratic Party on the national stage.

Personally, I was hoping she wouldn’t run on account of the fact that her status within the party would guarantee her excellent funds and organization, but she would essentially ruin the race for potentially more electable candidates.

Much to my chagrin, however, she opted to jump in anyway.  The results thus far have been predictable; she has surged to the head of the field, and stayed there.  In a strange but equally predictable turn of events, she’s also managed to find some support among those on the right.  Whether this support comes honesty or out of a desire to pick the most preferred opponent is unclear.

What is clear, however, is that evidence continues to pile up against the Democratic front runner that though she rides high in her own field, she is not the most electible candidate the Democrats have.

In an interesting Gallup Poll, recipients were asked to rate the presidential candidates in accordance to a kind of feel good “thermometer”.  Again, as is common in national polls across both parties, Obama continues to outstrip Clinton in cross party support.  But despite being better received by independents and Republicans, Barack is still having a tough time making inroads among his own party caucus (to be fair, he’s doing great among Democrats, just not as great as Hillary).

Of the leading candidates running for president in both major parties — those currently vying for first or second place for their party’s nomination — all but one earns a mean thermometer score of better than 50% from Americans who can rate them. This includes Obama and Edwards on the Democratic side, and Giuliani, McCain, and Thompson on the Republican side. While Hillary Clinton’s warm ratings are higher than those of Edwards and McCain, her relatively high cold ratings suppress her overall mean score, pushing it below the 50-degree mark.

All this suggests that Obama, Edwards, Giuliani, and McCain are slightly better positioned than Clinton to win the fall election and to earn popular support from Americans should they be elected president. Thompson technically falls into this auspicious group given his warm mean thermometer score; however, he is not widely known enough to project these figures onto the public.

Clinton’s strength is within her own party. Among Democrats she is the most well-liked candidate, and the one most Democrats would prefer to meet personally over dinner. These findings are consistent with Gallup trial heat polling showing her as the clear front-runner over Obama for the Democratic nomination. Giuliani is not nearly as dominant within the Republican Party on these measures as Clinton is among Democrats. That, too, is reflected in his performance in trial heats for the Republican nomination, where he has a relatively narrow lead over his Republican opponents.

Which brings about an interesting idea.  Currently, it is known that comparitively Democrats are more enthused about their selection of candidates than are Republicans, and I think for good reason.  Bush has for at least a few election cycles mired the concepts of conservatism, and in the aftermath left his successors to redefine it or define it as you will.

On the Democratic side, voters are thrilled with the level of intellectual debate and the depth with which most of the major candidates are pushing their campaigns.  On the Republican side, they often seem as though they’re still in a testing phase; an “I’m conservative enough” phase.

Whatever the case, and I could do a whole series of posts as to why voter satisfaction is up among Democrats and down among Republicans, one thins seems true.  Without any other factors involved, Hillary not showing as well as both Edwards and Obama, as well as top Republican candidates could be overcome.  Given that Democratic energy is higher than Republican energy at this moment, it’s at least feasible.

But one thing the summary of the poll points out, and what we have seen in polling data throughout the primary season, is that on top of having the most Democratic support, Hillary also comes with the most negative baggage.

How can this translate at the polls?  I think when we get to the fall of next year, should Hillary be nominated, what you will find is what many have theorized from the beginning.  Even if the Republicans fail to nominate someone that energizes the base, the mere fact that Hillary is on the opposite ticket will do all the energizing for the candidate.

That’s a difficult thing to overcome.

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