Electorate Shifts Democrat, Dems Fear Hillary Drag

Two seemingly divergent trends are being reported today at Political Wire. First, Democratic pollster and strategist Stan Greenberg has released a study showing that most of the trends are moving his party’s way. At the same time, Democratic Party officials are very worried that Hillary Clinton, the clear frontrunner for the nomination, will turn off swing voters, especially in the down ballot races.

Can these things happen simultaneously?

Greenberg finds that Democrats are gaining among the educated, wealthy “opinion elite;” Independents “support a Democrat for president by 19 points;” young voters are “breaking to Democrats with landslide margins; and married women are moving back to the Democrats. With the exception of the first, all those trends follow my expectations given the unpopularity of the incumbent Republican president, the dismal performance of the recent Republican majority in Congress, and the state of the war in Iraq.

If it’s true that educated voters earning $75,000 a year — traditionally, a key part of the Republican base — are now overwhelmingly going with the Democrats by an 11 point margin, that would seem to spell doom for the GOP’s chances in 2008.

Then again, all those trends are for a generic ballot. It’s one thing for people who have traditionally voted Republican to get disgusted with the party. The question, though, is whether they’ll actually sit the election out, much less vote for the Democratic candidate.

Which brings us to “Hillary drag” factor.

She’s not the evil proto-Communist Dragon Lady of Rush Limbaugh caracature. Still, she’s probably more liberal than John Kerry and decidely more liberal than Al Gore. And there’s still plenty of animosity among the Republican electorate towards the Clintons.

Then again, I’m not excited by any of the prospects on the Republican side, either. Rudy Giuliani, Fred Thompson, John McCain and Mitt Romney all have significant baggage that will alienate them from the base, let alone swing voters. And all the recent polls show that Republicans are less thrilled with their choices than the Democrats are with theirs.

It’s a maxim of politics that, no matter how bad the candidates are, one of them will win it. That’ll definitely hold true in 2008.

FILED UNDER: 2008 Election, Congress, Public Opinion Polls, , , , , , , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Dave Schuler says:

    We need to bear in mind that we don’t elect presidents at large so what the nation-wide polls tell may or may not mean anything. The real question is how the various candidates fare state by state. Can Sen. Clinton carry states that went for Bush in 2004? Can whoever emerges as the Republican candidate carry a state that Gore carried in 2000? Those are the real questions.

  2. yetanotherjohn says:

    Hillary has such high negatives among independent and republicans, that she could be a GOP/middle uniter. We are also looking at things 13 months before it starts to really matter. The democratic congress is doing yeoman work to fritter away the goodwill that got them elected (e.g. 3% approval ratings).

  3. Zelsdorf Ragshaft III says:

    James are you touting the work of the Democratic congess as elected in 2006? They are less popular than Bush, who remains very popular among Republicans. Polls, like statistics can be used to show whatever the showman wants. Do you really think the country is ready for a Communist, rather, Democratic President? Does the Daily Kos really represent the middle? Only a fool would vote for higher taxes. National security will trump all other issues and the Democrats are exremely weak in that area.

  4. Bithead says:

    Over the last several cycles and the press has been telling us that democrats poll slightly higher than republicans… until, that is, specific names start getting mentioned on the democrat party side. With point, the polls lean heavily republican. This would appear to be more of the same. And Hillary Clinton, would appear to be one of the democrats that even those who say they for democrats , wouldn’t vote if their life depended on it.

  5. Of course, lives do depend on it.

  6. MSS says:

    How is Clinton more liberal than Kerry or Gore? With all caveats about the way “liberal” is (mis-) defined in American political discourse, I do not see it. Gore was a very conservative Democratic Senator, but he left those days behind long ago.

    You are absolutely right that generic party preference and candidate preference can diverge. That is not the case in most democracies. But it most certainly is here.

    My guesses are that Clinton is unstoppable in the nomination race, that she will struggle to win more than 47% of the vote, but that she just might win the electoral college anyway.

  7. won't vote hillary says:

    I’m an Independent voter who would love to vote for a Democrat, but I won’t vote for Mrs Clinton regardless of what she says or does in the next 12 months.

    She’s been around for 15 years, no results to speak of, no real representation of NYers in her time in the Senate. Her campaign is progressively showing her true character as an elitist attack dog who panders to the people who give her money.

    While the Republican candidates don’t excite me, I will vote for one of them should the Dems nominate Mrs Clinton. They really need to understand this – their vote for Mrs Clinton forces me to vote for a Republican.

    It doesn’t have to be that way, there are other good Democratic candidates in the running.