The Note: You Can't Get Elected. . .


"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-NY) and Sen. John McCain (R-AZ). But their support profiles are vastly different: Clinton, much stronger in her base; McCain, far more appealing beyond his," write Dalia Sussman and Drew Allen of the ABC News polling unit. LINK

At first glance, Clinton appears unstoppable for her party's nomination, but would have a relatively tough time winning a general election. McCain is in the opposite position -- equally unstoppable in a general election, but with a relatively tough road to the GOP nomination. (Note to Karen Tumulty: don't sue us. We thought of this before you, even if we didn't bother to write it up first.)

Within their parties, Clinton and McCain are the most potent fundraisers by far among potential 2008 candidates, as always a huge advantage. And both have been involved in national campaigns before -- also a huge advantage that few of the other candidates in either party has.

Don't believe those people who say Clinton can't win a general election, or those who say McCain can't be the Republican nominee. Neither of those things is remotely true. Clinton (like any Democrat) would simply have to win all the states John Kerry won in 2004 and then either Florida or Ohio -- totally possible, especially if McCain is not the nominee of the Republicans. And McCain has made even more strides making new friends and defusing old GOP enemies than has been reported.

We have been surprised at how aggressive so far the other potential Democratic candidates have been in taking the necessary early steps (especially travel to key states and meetings with interest groups). Despite the occasional buzz about some of them, however, Clinton at this time remains far ahead by every conventional measurement.

Getting a true sense of how voters would feel about "Clinton fatigue" and having a woman presidential candidate on Election Day 2008 is impossible now, and will likely remain so for a long time -- perhaps forever. You can ask John Harwood's dentist (or his producer), your spouse, the gal next to you on the subway for their opinions -- heck, ask everybody you know -- but you still won't be able to figure these things out.

Many Democrats, including some close to all the leading presidential candidates, believe that a healthy, steady McCain -- if nominated by his party -- would be unbeatable, no matter who the Democrats picked. With those caveats about McCain, that seems like a sensible view to us.

There is, of course, a lot of time to go (HURRY UP, MR. CALENDAR!). And either Clinton or McCain -- or both -- might not run. But make no mistake: in what would seem at first glance to be a wide-open race for the White House in 2008, we have two seriously strong frontrunners.

More Sussman/Allen: "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 flipside is that he's considerably weaker among Republicans than Clinton is among Democrats."

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