'Love Her or Hate Her?' -- Early Polls on Hillary

Time magazine's Aug. 28 Hillary Clinton cover story asks the question on all political pundits' minds: "Love Her or Hate Her? Choose One."

While the magazine asks readers to log on to Time.com and cast their votes, it also publishes new poll results that suggest, to a large degree, that the question has already been answered. The results look like good news for Sen. Clinton (D-N.Y.) and her possible 2008 presidential campaign.

According to the poll, 53 percent of those surveyed have a favorable impression of the freshman senator, a number that ranks above that of her primary Democratic contenders for the nomination: former Vice-President Al Gore received a 49 percent favorability rating, and 2004's presidential hopefuls John Edwards and John Kerry received 46 percent and 45 percent, respectively.

Perhaps more important, 67 percent of those polled see Clinton as politically moderate -- a powerful statistic for any presidential hopeful mounting a campaign in the politically polarized climate.

"She has achieved some of her political objectives; I can see that as a Republican," says GOP strategist Jack Burkman. "She has been on a campaign since the year 2000 to move to the center."

Additional polling gives hypothetical matchups between various Republican and Democratic candidates. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) easily beats both Al Gore, 52 percent to 43 percent, and Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) by an equally wide margin, 52 percent to 42 percent.

The strongest contender to McCain is Clinton, who makes the theoretical Republican victory a two-point margin, at 49 percent to 47 percent.

But any chatter about Clinton's possible run for president in 2008 remains speculation. As Time's Karen Tumulty reports: "If you ask anyone around Hillary Clinton the question that everyone is asking, the answer comes back in a shot: The freshman senator from New York is far too busy concentrating on her re-election in November to be giving even a passing thought to 2008."

Similar questions to other possible nominees also remain unanswered. Kerry took a pass on discussing the poll results with George Stephanopoulos this Sunday on ABC's "This Week." "You're asking me today if I agree with a poll that has nothing to do with a race that hasn't even started. I mean, come on," said Kerry.

Despite the positive poll results and her moderate political stance, Clinton remains a polarizing force between Democrats and Republicans. "Democrats think she is true blue -- she does everything for the greater good of the republic. Republicans think she is completely an opportunist and everything she says or does is in order to get elected," says Time editor Richard Stengel.

While those close to Clinton, and Clinton herself, claim to focus only on her re-election race this November, her $30 million war chest, plus the dozens of campaign professionals she's amassed to work for her, seem disproportionate to her weak challengers and so-called cake walk to a second term.

With all these numbers in mind, Republicans have already mounted an attack. A recent Internet ad from John Spencer, a New York Senate Republican hopeful, shows Clinton alongside Osama bin Laden with a voiceover saying, "She'd leave us vulnerable."

"We're in a real war, and I don't believe Hillary Clinton or her friends understand that. ... I think it's going to hurt her in both. Well, hopefully, it will hurt her so much in the first race, there won't be a second race," said Spencer.

Then, of course, there is the "Bill factor." The former first lady must contend with her husband's legacy and current political activism. Though Time's poll shows two-thirds of those surveyed have positive memories of the Clinton presidency, only 18 percent would want him to play a role in a second Clinton administration. An interesting paradox, for a woman who took such a prominent role in her husband's presidency.