Showdown 2008: Clinton vs. McCain

More than two years out, most Americans have favorable views of the two most talked about potential 2008 presidential candidates, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., and Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. But their support profiles are vastly different: Clinton, much stronger in her base; McCain, far more appealing beyond his.

Fifty-two percent in this ABC News/Washington Post poll have a favorable opinion of Clinton, compared with 59 percent for McCain. McCain's popularity is at once broader across partisan lines and less divisive in terms of intensity of sentiment. Yet the flip side is that he's considerably weaker among Republicans than Clinton is among Democrats.

Sampling, data collection and tabulation for this poll were done by TNS.

Overall 46 percent view Clinton unfavorably, compared with 29 percent for McCain (more have no opinion of McCain). More ominously for Clinton, 33 percent have a "strongly" unfavorable impression of her, compared with just 11 percent for McCain.

Opinion of Hillary Clinton
  Favorable Strongly
Favorable
Unfavorable Strongly
Unfavorable
All 52% 27% 46% 33%
Democrats 80% 50% 16% 7%
Republicans 19% 5% 79% 64%
Independents 53% 25% 45% 32%
Conservative Reps. 14% 4% 84% 73%
Liberal Dems. 86% 48% 12% 3%

Opinion of John McCain
  Favorable Strongly
Favorable
Unfavorable Strongly
Unfavorable
All 59% 22% 29% 11%
Democrats 57% 23% 33% 13%
Republicans 64% 25% 27% 11%
Independents 59% 20% 29% 10%
Conservative Reps. 69% 29% 24% 9%
Liberal Dems. 61% 29% 31% 12%

Clinton More Polarizing

Clinton -- Positive views of Clinton are highest by far in her own political party. Eight in 10 Democrats view her favorably, compared with only two in 10 Republicans. And negative sentiment is extraordinarily intense across the aisle: Almost three-quarters of conservative Republicans have strongly negative feelings toward her -- likely the long hangover from her "vast right-wing conspiracy" complaint.

Fewer than half of liberal Democrats have a strongly favorable opinion of Clinton.

But positive changes for Clinton, compared with June 2003, those with "no opinion" are down by six points, her favorable rating is up by eight points, and her "strongly" favorable rating us up by 12. Her strong unfavorables, though, didn't budge.

McCain -- In stark contrast to Clinton, majorities across political and ideological groups see McCain favorably. Only seven points separate Democrats' and Republicans' favorable opinions, 57 percent and 64 percent. And remarkably, McCain is viewed favorably by six in 10 liberal Democrats as well as seven in 10 conservative Republicans.

Challenges for Both

These views present challenges for both candidates. Clinton has 16 points more favorability within her own party than McCain has within his; that makes a primary campaign look easier for her. But McCain has more cross-party appeal, he edges out Clinton in favorable ratings among independents by six points and his "strongly" unfavorable ratings among independents are a third of Clinton's. All those would help in a general election campaign -- if he got there.

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