The Plank

How Popular Is Powell?

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Hillary Clinton's Colin Powell gambit is being blasted by a bunch of liberal bloggers. Here's a fairly representative critique from Matthew Yglesias:

[I]f Clinton's looking to assuage people's doubts about her foreign policy judgment, this seems like a terrible
way to do it. A lot of Clinton's pro-invasion advisors are too obscure
for most people to recognize. But Powell was the public face of the
Iraq sales pitch. He's also a man who did have enough
independence from his commander-in-chief to undermine her husbands
efforts to bring gay equality to the military when Bull Clinton was
president and Powell was in uniform. But as Secretary of State he
raised some skeptical questions about the war, heard some answers, and
then not only hopped on the bandwagon, but used his leverage as someone
with a reputation for skepticism to make the sales pitch all the more
effective.

All of which is true--and is also the opinion of liberal opinion-makers. But is this the view of Powell of people who are a bit less plugged-in? I don't think so. Because Powell's been out of the public eye for a while now, there isn't lots of recent polling data on his favorable/unfavorables, but I did find the following. 

Right before Powell was resigned as Secretary of State in late 2004, Gallup found that he had a remarkable 87 percent/9 percent favorable/unfavorable split. More recently, in June of this year, Rasmussen reported that he had very robust 77 percent favorable and 20 percent unfavorable ratings. Now it's likely that the 20 percent of people who view Powell unfavorably include a lot of folks who'll be voting in Democratic primaries. But let's not forget that Powell has lots of detractors among hard-core conservatives, too--so I don't think that 20 percent is entirely comprised of Democratic primary voters.

In other words, while Clinton's invocation of Powell may make liberal bloggers blanche, I don't know if it'll necessarily turn off Democratic primary voters--even anti-war Democratic primary voters. What can you say? Powell's made of teflon. Which is probably why Obama--who's staked out very different foreign policy turf than Clinton--has sought out Powell, too.

--Jason Zengerle 

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