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Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Clinton's, McCain's Weaknesses Undercut Edge in 2008, Poll Says

Clinton's, McCain's Weaknesses Undercut Edge in 2008, Poll Says

By Heidi Przybyla

Dec. 14 (Bloomberg) -- The two frontrunners in the 2008 presidential election, Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican John McCain, face obstacles in their quest to win the White House, according to a Bloomberg/Los Angeles Times poll.
In a general election match-up, Clinton, a New York senator, trails 14 points behind McCain, an Arizona lawmaker, according to the survey conducted Dec. 8 to 11. Even Republican Mitt Romney, the outgoing Massachusetts governor and an unknown to many voters, runs only 6 points behind Clinton in a two-way race.
The Democratic primary also presents challenges for Clinton, 59. While 79 percent of registered Democrats and those who say they usually vote for the party's candidates said they like her, a majority also responded favorably to her closest competitors for the nomination, former North Carolina Senator John Edwards and Senator Barack Obama of Illinois.
McCain's weaknesses are within his party. He has the highest negative ratings among Republicans of any potential candidate except former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. One in four of the self-described conservatives, who play a deciding role in the nominating process, said they had a negative opinion of him. Age may also be an issue, as one in seven respondents said they couldn't vote for a 72 year-old, the age McCain will be in 2008.
Obama's `Pizzazz'
Clinton and McCain both ``have vulnerabilities,'' said Fred Greenstein, a presidential scholar at Princeton University. ``Clinton is in danger of being wounded by someone who really has a lot of pizzazz,'' he said referring to Obama. McCain, meanwhile, is ``late'' in ``trying to mend those conservative fences.''
The survey of 1,342 registered voters, including 585 Democrats and 473 Republicans, nationwide has a margin of sampling error of 3 percentage points; for Democrats it is 4 points and for Republicans it is 5 points.
Race or gender doesn't appear to pose an obstacle for Clinton or Obama. Just 4 percent of voters said they couldn't vote for a woman and 3 percent said they couldn't vote for a black candidate like Obama.
Obama, who has just two years experience in the Senate, is moving up fast. Fifty-four percent of Democrats give him high marks, even though 40 percent of respondents said they hadn't heard enough about him to judge.
Obama, 45, is Clinton's biggest problem, said Susan Pinkus, the Times polling director. ``He's the rock star,'' Pinkus said. ``He's really like this clean slate. He comes across as charismatic and a new face, the Camelot kind of guy.''
Edwards, 53, the vice presidential nominee in 2004, also gets high marks, with 65 percent of registered Democrats rating him favorably. Former 2004 presidential candidate John Kerry, a Massachusetts senator, has the highest negative ratings of any Democrat, at 34 percent. After Clinton, former vice president Al Gore, who said he won't run, is rated most favorably, at 74 percent.
As for other potential Democratic candidates -- New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack, and Senators Christopher Dodd of Connecticut, Joe Biden of Delaware and Evan Bayh of Indiana -- most respondents said they hadn't heard enough about them to form an opinion.
Overall, poll respondents said they prefer Democrats to Republicans, by a 49 percent to 41 percent margin.
Among Republicans, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who has said she won't run, had an 84 percent approval rating. Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani scored highest, with 86 percent of registered Republicans and those who usually vote for the party saying they had a good impression of him, compared with just 8 percent who have a negative view.
Self-described conservative Republicans even give Giuliani, who is pro-abortion rights and supports gay marriage, higher ratings than McCain.
Social Issues
``Because of 9/11 Giuliani has been very popular,'' Pinkus said. ``But this could change once his positions on different social issues become more well-known. This might not fit well with the conservative branch of the Republican Party.''
McCain, who ran for the nomination in 2000, also may have an advantage because he has undergone far more national scrutiny than Giuliani, 62.
Romney, who will leave office in January, is seeking to cast himself as a conservative alternative to McCain. The poll shows he may be enjoying some success: Romney, 59, received his highest favorable ratings, at 24 percent, from self-described conservative Republicans. Still, 65 percent of Republicans said they didn't know enough about him to form an opinion.
Romney's Mormon Faith
Romney, a former business executive who is winning increased support in his party, is a Mormon. Fourteen percent of voters in the latest poll said they couldn't vote for a Mormon, even if they are in agreement with the candidate's positions on most issues. More than a third of registered voters in a Bloomberg/Times poll conducted at the end of June said they couldn't vote for a Mormon, though that poll made no mention of the candidate's stand on issues.
The only other Republican that voters say they know enough to form a strong opinion about is Gingrich, who has the highest unfavorable ratings at 26 percent. Senators Sam Brownback of Kansas and Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, Representative Duncan Hunter of California, former Wisconsin Governor Tommy Thompson and Governor George Pataki of New York all have yet to make an impression on most Republican voters, according to the poll.
To contact the reporter on this story: Heidi Przybyla in Boston at
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