Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Clinton Definitely, Giuliani Too, Surge In Poll

Sen. Hillary Clinton has increased her lead for the Democratic nomination, and former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani is well ahead for the Republican, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll of 1,114 voters released today.

The most striking things in the poll are that Clinton now has majority support among Democrats, while Sen. Barack Obama is falling back, and former Sen. John Edwards is not moving, and that on the Republican side, Giuliani has a 2-1 lead over former Sen. Fred Thompson, 34% to 17%, with Sen. John McCain at 12% and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney at 11%.

Both Clinton and Giuliani have emerged as the two candidates considered by voters in their respective parties to be the strongest leaders and having the best chance to win. However, the poll found that Clinton's support in her party appears more solid in terms of the degree of commitment than Giuliani's in his.

The poll results released in the Post today do not include a match up between the two in a prospective final election. (That may come tomorrow). And they do not contain information on the negatives of the two frontrunners, such as which voters would never vote for them, and so forth.

I'm not surprised by the results such as they are. Both Clinton and Giuliani have been most prominently and beneficially in the news lately, and both have a fundraising edge. Obama is beginning to sound very anxious, as his proposal this week to do away with all nuclear weapons, indicates. (This, of course, would put the U.S. in more danger than it is already).

But, it should be noted, this is a national poll, and does not reflect the situation in either of the two first major primary contests, the Iowa caucuses and the News Hampshire primary. It is conceivable that Edwards and Romney could break out in front in these votes, and in that case perhaps gain momentum nationally for the larger state primaries that will take place in early Febuary.

Still, with the commanding position Clinton and Giuliani hold nationally, their fundraising will be further enhanced, and it is likely that with more funds each will be able to put on major advertising thrusts in Iowa and New Hampshire that would, by the January votes in those states, change the prospects there materially.

I have long felt Clinton and Giuliani are the most likely final election candidates, and there is nothing in the results of this poll that would indicate otherwise.

From a press point of view, it seems that the unrelenting campaign by the New York Times to discredit Giuliani is not working. When Republicans were asked who they regarded as most electable, 55% said Giuliani, compared to 34% for McCain. Giuliani also had edges as to who is strongest in the War on Terror, who is most honest and trustworthy (although here the Giuliani margin over McCain was only 26% to 23%), and even, surprisingly, who was most acceptable in terms of social issues.

This knocks in the head the notion, fondly advanced by so many alleged pundits, that Giuliani's abortion, gun and gay stands would be decisive disadvantages for him in the Republican primaries. Asked who they believe best represents the core values of the Republican party, Guiliani holds a slight lead.

The reason for Giuliani's strength, however, lies definitely with the impression he created on 9/11, when he calmly led New York City through the terrorist attack. This stamped him in the minds of many Republicans, who are usually security-minded, as their best choice.

According to the poll, these are the standings in the Republican race:

Giuliani 34%
Thompson 17%
McCain 12%
Romney 11%
Huckabee 8%
Paul 3%
Hunter 2%
Brownback and Tancredo 1% each.

On the Democratic side, Clinton has opened up what seems to be a commanding lead.

The results:

Clinton 53%
Obama 20%
Edwards 13%
All others in low single digits.

As to strength and experience, 62% of Democrats rate Clinton on top, compared to 51% last spring. Among women, Clinton now leads with 57% to Obama's 15% and Edwards' 13%. As to who can be most trusted to handle Iraq, 5@% say Clinton, 22% Obama and 17% Edwards.

On which Democrat has the best chance to win the election, 57% of Democrats think it is Clinton, 20% Edwards and 16% Obama.

No wonder, so many Republicans have already begun to go after Clinton with everything from attack statements to tasteless jokes. They perceive her as the likely Democratic nominee, and realize that with the Iraq war being an albatross around the Republicans, they had better try to soften her up now.

Whether it will work better than the New York Times assault on Giuliani is, I think, somewhat questionable. There is every early indication that most voters are determined to think for themselves and not be overly swayed by smears.

The poll lights up the landscape considerably: The final choice a year from now is likely to be between Clinton and Giuliani, and, for now, no third party candidate seems too potent.

--

Harry Dent, political guru for Sen. Strom Thurmond and later for President Richard Nixon in an earlier era, a figure lesser than Karl Rove perhaps but still important, has died at the age of 77. Dent, among other things, was a prime organizer of the Republican "Southern strategy" that ultimately swung the Deep South to the Republican party.

But the conclusion of the New York Times obituary on Dent shows that like some other Southerners reflecting back later, Dent finally changed his mind on the key race question that dominated Southern politics during his career.

The obituary says, notably, that when he left politics, Dent became active in building religious institutions in both Romania and the U.S.

"Reflecting on his new mission in life, Mr. Dent acknowledged in a 1981 interview with the Washington Post that he had regrets. "When I look back, my biggest regret now is anything I did that stood in the way of the rights of black people," he said. "Or any people."

I remember Dent, when I was covering Southern politics in the era in which he was most active, as a kind of hardboiled character. It seems, thankfully, that he redeemed himself.

--

In reaction to today's tasteless NBC wraparound ad obscuring Page 1 of the L.A. Times, before I ripped it off and threw it in the trash, I'd urge that no one watch any NBC program tonight. These ads must be discouraged.

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