Carol Platt Liebau: A "Hill" to Climb

Tuesday, May 31, 2005

A "Hill" to Climb

If you've got some time, check out this interesting story on Hillary Clinton.

Although she's coy about it, she's definitely running for President. We've already seen her strategy at work; here it is, laid out in the pages of The Washington Post:

On social issues, it is to reassure moderate and conservative voters with such positions as her support of the death penalty, and to find rhetorical formulations on abortion and other issues -- on which her position is more liberal -- that she is nonetheless in sympathy with traditional values. On national security, it is to ensure that she has no votes or wavering statements that would give the GOP an opening to argue that she is not in favor of a full victory in Iraq. In her political positioning generally, it is to find occasions to prominently work across party lines -- to argue that she stands for pragmatism over the partisanship that many centrist voters especially dislike about Washington.

The strategy is a smart one. A liberal, like Hillary, must be a maverick of sorts, in order to win over some of the red states (and the center-right majority). What's interesting is that John McCain is trying Hillary's strategy (albeit from the right) and it won't serve him as well for a couple reasons: (1) He doesn't have a resevoir of good will from his party's base, as Hillary does from hers; (2)He's reaching for the center even though there is a majority to be won within the center-right (as proved by President Bush last year).

An advantage that Hillary and McCain share is a big fan base in the press. Check this out:

As the skeptics see it, she could probably win a nomination by exciting Democratic partisans, but she remains too personally and ideologically polarizing a figure to win a general election. Some members of her team, discussing strategy on the condition that they not be identified by name, acknowledge that answering this skepticism is among her biggest challenges in the next two years.

How convenient, then, that this piece comes out: "Poll majority say they'd be likely to vote for Clinton." Answers that "skepticism" pretty conveniently, doesn't it?

Needless to say, there are problems with the poll. First, only 29% are "very likely" to vote for her, but 39% are "not at all likely" to vote for her. So those adamantly opposed to her outrank her vociferous partisans by a full ten percent -- and put her close to the perilous 40% opposition number (without even considering the 7% that are "not very likely" to vote for her).

Moreover, if you look at the supposed 53% that are "likely" to vote for her, only 29% are "very likely." Those are the yellow dog Democrats -- they'd vote for a chimp, if it were running against a Republican. The other 24% are "somewhat likely" to vote for her.

But that's where one must remember the excellent point once made to me by one of America's leading pollsters, Kellyanne Conway. As Kellyanne points out, in life, we get choices. A poll that gives no choices isn't worth much.

Applied here, the question "Would you be very likely/somewhat likely/not very likely/not at all likely to vote for Hillary Clinton" doesn't mean much unless it's put in the context of a political choice. So the numbers for "Would you be very likely/somewhat likely/not very likely/not at all likely to vote for Hillary Clinton" would probably change dramatically depending on the choices given -- say, "if her opponent were the Antichrist" vs. "if her opponent were Ronald Reagan circa 1980."


Blogger cookie jill said...

carol...Hillary is NOT running for President. Hate to spoil your guys' dreams, but, we on the left have our eyes on other people.

2:44 PM  
Blogger eLarson said...

You on the left have your eye on other people?

I wonder why? She's the only "name brand" the Democrats have any more.

1:51 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home