Houston, I Have A Problem

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THE PLANK NOVEMBER 26, 2007

Houston, I Have A Problem

Over on The Stump, Mike points to a few new polls that show Hillary trailing the major GOP candidates in hypothetical head-to-head matchups. As someone who just wrote a story on the pseudoscience of electability that argued, in part, that "the case for Hillary’s electability turns out to be pretty strong," this is unwelcome news.

But I think these new polls just show the bankruptcy of the whole electability argument--which was the larger point of my story. Take, for instance, the fact that of all the Republican contenders in the polls Mike cites, Mike Huckabee does the best against Hillary, beating her by 5 points. Does that mean Huckabee is the most electable Republican? No. It just means that right now he's the least known Republican candidate--and one who's riding a favorable wave of national press to boot. If Huckabee were to get the GOP nomination, you can be sure that his unfavorable numbers would skyrocket--partly because more people would then know more about him, and partly because of the currently polarized state of American politics (in which half of the electorate is almost guaranteed to hate someone who represents the other half). 

Hillary is probably more sensitive to these sorts of electability polls than any other candidate--since the chattering class has decided that electability is the biggest question of her candidacy--but I'd imagine that the folks in Hillaryland are far more concerned about her dwindling (or vanished) leads over Obama and Edwards in Iowa and New Hampshire than they are about her standing vis-a-vis Rudy/Romney/McCain/Huckabee. After all, Democratic primary voters--even those in Iowa or New Hampshire--probably don't read the national polls enough to let these new numbers affect their assessments of Hillary's electability. But if she were to somehow lose to Obama or Edwards in Iowa or New Hampshire, then Democrats' perceptions of Hillary's electability would almost certainly dim--and she really would have a problem.

--Jason Zengerle 

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