A new poll from LA Times/Bloomberg offers a number of interesting findings about the 2008 presidential race:
In a generic presidential general election, the Democrats beat the Republicans by eight points among registered voters (49%-41%). But when the match-ups are among different candidates, the story is slightly different.
Clinton vs. three top Republican candidates: McCain narrowly leads Clinton by 45% to 41%, although within the poll’s margin of error. The gender gap that has been seen in many election polls is no exception in this poll. Among men, 34% support the NY Senator, 52% support the Arizona Senator, while the reverse is true of women – 47% for Clinton and 38% for McCain. A large majority of minorities are supporting the Democrat over McCain, as well as the other top two candidates – Giuliani and Romney. Independents support Clinton by 40% to 34%.
Romney narrowly leads Clinton by 43% to 41%, but well within the poll’s margin of error. Again, there is a gender gap, with men supporting Romney, while Clinton receives the support of the women. White voters would give Romney a 14 point advantage over his Democratic rival.
Giuliani beats Clinton by 10 points (49%-39%). Slightly more than half of white voters support the Republican
candidate (an 18 point lead over Clinton). Women who usually are strong supporters of the only female candidate for president, barely supports Clinton over Giuliani (45%-41%), while men solidly endorse the former mayor of NY (57%-32%).
Edwards vs. three top Republican candidates: McCain narrowly leads Edwards by five points, but within the poll’s margin of error --45% to 40%. Edwards, too, sees a gender gap – with men supporting McCain (54%-31%) and women giving the Democrat a 12 point advantage.
Edwards beats Romney by 14 points (46%-32%). White voters are virtually split between the two. Independents give Edwards a 41%-27% lead over his opponent.
Edwards marginally is ahead of Giuliani by 46% to 43%, although within the poll’s margin of error. Once again, men are supporting the Republican candidate over the Democratic opponent. Women are supporting Edwards (48%) over Giuliani (38%). Nearly half of white voters support Giuliani.
Obama vs. three top Republican candidates: This poll shows that Obama, among the top three Democratic candidates, appears to be the more electable candidate. Obama takes a 12 point advantage over McCain (47%-35%), has a 16 point lead over Romney (50%-34%) and a small five point lead over Giuliani within the poll’s margin or error. More minorities support Obama against each of the three Republican matchups than the other two Democratic candidates. White voters split their votes among Obama and McCain and Obama and Romney. But, Giuliani gets a nine point advantage with this racial group over his Democratic rival (49% for Giuliani, 40% for Obama). The Democratic Senator from Illinois maintains a leads in each of the three paired match-ups among women voters. Independents are also supporting the Democratic candidate over the three Republican candidates.
All emphases mine. The same poll gives Clinton a 33 percent to 22 percent lead over Obama among Democrats for the nomination. Of course, national polls are somewhat less meaningful, and the state races still show Edwards well ahead in Iowa, Clinton ahead by various margins in New Hampshire, and a total mess in South Carolina.
But what's weird to me is the "internals" of this poll, which show Sen. Clinton winning 40 percent of "liberal Democrats" to Obama's 21, with 18 for Al Gore and 10 for Edwards. As we've discussed here and elsewhere, again and again and again, Hillary Clinton is not a liberal Democrat, despite the media portrayal. I wonder if Obama and Edwards need to start pushing this message a little harder.
What they can't do much about, I think, is the overwhelming female support for the first really viable female presidential candidate. Clinton doubles Obama's support among women who are likely to vote in the Democratic primaries. But a caveat noted at PoliticalWire from a different poll is that "In the general election, 43% of female independents said they 'definitely will not vote for her if she is the Democratic nominee.'"
That's not female Republicans; that's female independents. And remember that Hillary Clinton consistently polls more strongly among women than men; so it's possible, maybe likely, that a majority of independent men won't support her. Given that the Republicans start with a larger "base" than Democrats in terms of ideology (though not party identification), writing off such a big chunk of the contested middle--especially against a perceived moderate like Giuliani, if he somehow makes it to the general--probably would doom the ticket.
For all the useful insights of this poll, however, it still fails to ask the question I'm most curious about: how badly Hillary Clinton as the Democratic nominee would hurt Democrats further down the ticket.
I very strongly believe that nominating Sen. Clinton will absolutely doom the party's majority in the House of Representatives, and possibly endanger the Senate as well. Freshman Democrats in "red" states like Indiana and Kansas, and even "purple" states like New Hampshire and Iowa and Ohio, likely would have to disavow their own presidential candidate; their Republican challengers would start with the enormous advantage of 16 years of anti-Hillary stereotyping in the minds of the local electorate.
I'm not saying she wouldn't win. As noted a couple posts down, I think she probably would, especially if it's Romney; her team is better at the blocking and tackling of politics, and a Mormon candidate could have some of the same categorical opposition as Clinton herself. But the larger point is that the 2008 election is the Democrats' to lose--and the best chance they have to lose it is by nominating Hillary Clinton for the presidency.