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January 12, 2007
Is Hillary The New Kerry?

The Washington Times reports that Hillary Clinton is slipping in polls for the first states in next year's presidential primaries, and that populists such as John Edwards and Barack Obama appear to be eclipsing her. One pollster draws comparisons between Hillary and the previous Democratic nominee that hardly intend to flatter her:

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's popularity in Democratic presidential-preference polls has fallen in the nation's first caucus and primary states in the face of increasing support for her chief rivals for the 2008 nomination.

Pollsters said her weaknesses in Iowa and New Hampshire were the result of the growing popularity of two major opponents -- former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards and Illinois Sen. Barack Obama -- and their populist economic messages, as well as a deepening antipathy toward her among Democratic-leaning independents who dislike her support for the war in Iraq and who question her electability.

"I think Hillary strikes these voters the same way Senator John Kerry did in 2004. They would really like to vote for someone they really like this time. Hillary doesn't fit that characterization right now," said pollster Del Ali of Research 2000, who conducted polls in both Iowa and New Hampshire.

His findings mirror more recent polling showing a similar national decline in support. "There's been erosion," said pollster John Zogby. "She's polling in the low- to mid-40s nationally."

The New York Democrat, who has been her party's clear front-runner, came in a distant fourth in an Iowa presidential poll of 600 likely voters conducted Dec. 18 to 20, drawing 10 percent in a crowded field of contenders. Mr. Edwards, the Democrats' 2004 vice-presidential nominee, and Mr. Obama were tied in first place with 22 percent each, followed by outgoing Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack with 12 percent.

The most remarkable point about those polls are that the top two candidates barely have a single term of national office combined. Obama has only served two years of his first Senate term, and Edwards only served four years before essentially withdrawing from his duties to campaign for President in 2003 and 2004. Edwards declined to run for re-election, as polls showed that he would lose to Richard Burr handily.

Now, however, the neophytes have overtaken the most feted and Establishment candidate the Democrats have. That demonstrates the power of the activist base in the Democratic Party to directly influence national politics. After all, Hillary has Bill Clinton, easily the most talented politician in the party, supporting her bid for another Clinton term in office, and Bill still enjoys tremendous popularity in the party. He plays well in Iowa, but Hillary apparently does not.

Iowa has a history of supporting populists, so perhaps it's not the best state on which to rely for predictive indicators. Unfortunately for Hillary, the news only gets marginally better in New Hampshire, the state where Bill earned the nickname The Comeback Kid. Hillary will need a dose of that if the polls have it right. She's dropped into a dead heat with Barack Obama in New Hampshire, erasing a 23-point lead over him from just a month ago. Why? Just like John Kerry, people neither trust nor like her; the negatives are too strong to allow her to succeed against other candidates, once they've shown viability.

Hillary will have to find a way to reconnect with the netroots and the MoveOn crowd, who ironically formed originally to demand an end to the impeachment of her husband. The trouble for Hillary is that she cannot afford to abandon the centrism she has pursued strategically to reduce her negatives among centrists and independents, especially because of her likability problems. She gets too strident even as a centrist -- and once she runs to the left, no one will trust her and no one will find any enthusiasm for a Hillary presidency, except to put Bill back in the White House with her doing the heavy lifting.

UPDATE: Richard Burr, not Jim DeMint, as several CQ readers noted ...

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at January 12, 2007 6:32 AM

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» Why Hillary Is Going To Iraq from Sensible Mom
Knowing the way the Clinton's operate and being a cynic, I'm sure Hillary is going to Iraq to stengthen her anti-war bonafides. Her poll numbers have dropped because the anti-war left accounts for too many of the democrat's primary voters. [Read More]

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» Why Hillary Is Going To Iraq? from Sensible Mom
Knowing the way the Clinton's operate and being a cynic, I'm sure Hillary is going to Iraq to stengthen her anti-war bonafides. Her poll numbers have dropped because the anti-war left accounts for too many of the democrats' primary voters. [Read More]

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