Presidency Hillary’s to Lose?

Mike Allen begins a story with a rather stunning aside: “Even many Republicans will tell you that the presidency this cycle is Sen. Hillary Clinton’s to lose . . . .”

Given how polarizing she is, can that really be the case? Maybe.

Months of head-to-head polls showing that every plausible Republican nominee would be her have now reversed. The current averages tracked by the folks at RealClear Politics have her beating or within striking distance of the Big 3, although the polls that make up those averages are all over the map:

RealClear Politics Averages Hillary Clinton vs. Rudy Giuliani John McCain Mitt Romney

In many cases, Barack Obama and John Edwards do even better but the current RCP poll averages have Clinton leading all comers for the Democratic nomination by 11.4% and Rudy Giuliani with an even 6% lead among Republicans.

If the election were held today (and I hasten to add it won’t be) we would expect Clinton to beat Giuliani by an incredibly narrow margin, right? Not necessarily.

First, the constituent polls are mostly (if not all) based on “adults” rather than registered voters, let alone likely voters. Giuliani may well be somewhat ahead of Clinton among those who will actually decide the election.

Second, we don’t decide presidential elections with a national popular vote but by 51 separate contests in the 50 states and the District of Columbia (which OTB hereby calls for the Democratic nominee, with 0% of the precincts reporting). We have no useful information about how those breakdowns will go at this point.

Third, there may well be one or more significant third party candidates again this year. We may have sore losers from the current primary crop, self-financed campaigns by the likes of Michael Bloomberg, and the Unity08 slate running. And there’s always Ralph Nader.

Regardless, Clinton’s numbers are hardly such that we’d say it’s hers to lose at this early stage. The nomination, yes, but not the presidency.

FILED UNDER: 2008 Election, Public Opinion Polls, The Presidency, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
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. yetanotherjohn says:

    Hillary strategy seems to be based on just enough. Just enough to get the nomination. Just enough to flip one state from 2000/2004. If she wins, it is not likely to be a blow out. With her “definitely won’t vote for” percentages running in the upper 40’s, this is likely to be the best chance she has.

  2. The Clintons as a team are the greatest politicians I’ve ever seen. They fight off scandal, win elections, and get people to live and die for them (at least for Bill).

    Her high negatives make me wary of predicting Hillary would win. But I’ve been psychologically preparing myself for a Hillary Presidency. I don’t want to suffer from too much HDS, Hillary Derangement Syndrome.

  3. yetanotherjohn says:

    The upside to a Hillary presidency would be watching the left have to swallow their tongue or be hypocritical. Sort of like watching feminist when you talk to them about Clinton and interns.

  4. Dave Schuler says:

    Well, obviously, I have no more idea who will be elected president in 2008 than anybody else does but my intuition follows Sean’s: I think that Ms. Clinton’s negatives will be troublesome for her in the general election. This makes me wonder if we’re not in for an odd sort of replay of 2004 in which Democrats delude themselves on the electability of candidates.

  5. A plus for Hillary is I don’t think the public is fond of any Republicans. The war has still soured them. Combine that with a general feeling that it’s the Democrats’ turn in the White House and I think if she survives the primaries she’s the favorite to be elected.

  6. yetanotherjohn says:

    I think the match up polls for all the republican candidates other than McCain and Rudy point out that 2008 is going to be a stiff head wind politically for the GOP (as things sit now). On the other hand, the democratic non-front runner tends to do better than the front runner. Let Hillary be Hillary, the GOP needs all the help it can get.

  7. siliconvalleypol says:

    Hillary as President is wishful thinking. These polls do not account for the electoral structure and they use (rightfully so from mathematical perspective) a sample size that is favorable to Democrats. If you use the electoral math, you will see that Giuliani will be the next President. He has the ability to flip a couple of big blue states but Hillary can not flip enough the other way to nullify him. Like they say – just do the math!

  8. sakthi says:

    I would like to see Hillary on the top..I wish to see her as our next president.I’m not a great believer of surveys because there are lot of possibilities to surveys become wrong.Since We don’t know what is the sample size,area of sample,analysis tool,etc.,So surveys cannot be right 100%..
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