The Washington Post/ABC News poll shows the national frontrunners remaining strong with just three months to go before the primaries, if we’re lucky. Hillary Clinton has now attracted a majority of Democratic voters and has commanding leads on all issues over her Democratic opponents. Rudy Giuliani has not yet reached those heights, but he has double the support of his nearest rival, Fred Thompson.
Clinton seems to be solidifying the perception of her inevitability:
Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton has consolidated her place as the front-runner in the contest for the Democratic presidential nomination, outpacing her main rivals in fundraising in the most recent quarter and widening her lead in a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.
For the first time, Clinton (N.Y.) is drawing support from a majority of Democrats — and has opened up a lead of 33 percentage points over Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.). Her popularity, the poll suggests, is being driven by her strength on key issues and a growing perception among voters that she would best represent change.
The new numbers come on the heels of an aggressive push by Clinton to dominate the political landscape. She unveiled her health-care proposal and then appeared on all five Sunday news shows on the same day — all while her husband, former president Bill Clinton, went on tour to promote a new book. Within the past month, at least one Clinton has appeared on television virtually every day, increasing the campaign’s exposure among millions of Americans.
That’s an interesting analysis, except it’s somewhat misleading. The polling took place between September 27-30, which one only finds out by reading the small print on the Giuliani analysis. If her appearances on the Sunday circuit affected the polling, it would only have affected the final day of the four-day poll. (see update below)
It’s more likely that Democrats have finally tired of Barack Obama and John Edwards. Clinton picked up twelve points in this poll, and seven of those came from Obama. The Illinois Senator had drawn as much as 30% in July, and in last month’s poll still had 27%. Now he has dropped to 20% as his campaign gaffes have increased. John Edwards lost a point from last month and four since April, when he still seemed to have some momentum. Now he’s taking federal assistance while Hillary piles $27 million into her coffers.
Rudy, on the other hand, may not be inevitable but still shows more staying power than anyone would have guessed at the beginning of the race:
Rudolph W. Giuliani leads the race for the GOP presidential nomination, with Republican voters describing him as the field’s strongest leader and most electable candidate in the 2008 general election, according to a Washington Post-ABC News poll.
But the Republican contest remains unsettled just three months before the first votes will be cast, and in comparison with fellow New York politician Hillary Rodham Clinton, Giuliani is a far less solid front-runner. He has double the support of his nearest rival, but a majority of those who support him do so only “somewhat.” At the same time, his advantages on key attributes are smaller today than they were earlier in the campaign, reflecting continued uncertainty among Republicans about their choices in the presidential race. …
Giuliani topped the Republican field with 34 percent, with Thompson at 17 percent and Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) at 12 percent in the new poll. Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney was in fourth with 11 percent but has continued to make strong showings in polls testing the crucial early contests in Iowa and New Hampshire.
Giuliani rebounds six points from the September poll, which showed him with only a nine-point lead over Fred Thompson. In this closer race, the internals tell an interesting story. Rudy leads in most of the qualitative measures, including a 50% rating on electability. For a man who has a reputation as combative, Republicans give him a plurality on his ability to reduce partisanship. Oddly, Mitt Romney trails with only 9% on this score despite his successful work in Massachussetts.
Even more interestingly, Giuliani gets a 41% trust level on handling social issues among Republicans polled on the subject. That is 23 points higher than his closest rival, Fred Thompson, and a shocker considering that social issues supposedly are Giuliani’s weak point among conservatives. He also gets a 34% plurality on immigration, and John McCain comes in second at 21%, while Romney comes in last at 10% despite his harder line on immigration. Giuliani’s politics are seen as “about right” by 61% of Republicans, and “too liberal” by 23%.
The Post did not publish its entire methodology for this poll. They note that the sample included 398 Republicans out of 1114 total respondents, which counts about 35%. That seems like a reasonable sample, and especially since they’re only reporting primary information, reliable enough. Larger samples of likely voters would probably be more accurate. When the Post reports on overall political issues, this sample will be more reliable than those we have seen from CBS in the past, as an obvious example.
UPDATE: I’m told in the comments that Hillary’s Sunday-show blitz came on the 23rd, not the 30th, which I believe is correct. That would make the Post correct in its analysis, and I offer my apologies.