What the 2008 Polling on Hillary Means
by Jonathan Singer, Mon Oct 23, 2006 at 11:05:49 AM EDT
What does the new polling on the potential general election matchup between Senators Clinton and McCain mean? In short, very little -- at least as it pertains to 2008.
The latest CNN poll included two questions on the 2008 elections, one pitting Hillary Rodham Clinton against John McCain, the other pitting Hillary Clinton against John McCain. With Rodham, the New York Democrat leads by 7 points; without it, the Arizona Republican leads by 1 point. This is an interstesting piece of information, one that Clinton's advisors will no doubt keep in mind as they start making decisions about how to run a presidential campaign should the Senator indeed jump in the race.
But leaving the internal workings of Clintonistas aside, does this poll indicate that Hillary Clinton -- er, Hillary Rodham Clinton can win handily in 2008? No, though it doesn't say she can't win, either. In fact, the CNN poll tells very little about the 2008 general election, or at least less about that contest than it does the current political environment.
Taking a look at the long list of 2008 general election polling including this most recent CNN poll, it appears that Senator Clinton, whether with or sans Rodham, has improved markedly since the summer and early fall. An NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll from back in July showed Clinton (no Rodham) trailing McCain by 9 points, and other polling from throughout 2006 has shown McCain up by anywhere from 7 to 12 percent. A Time poll from July in which Rodham was included showed McCain leading by just 2 points, 49 percent to 47 percent.
While it could be the case that Sen. Clinton's star has been on the rise just as Sen. McCain's has begun to wane (the second is certainly possible given McCain's extreme partisan actions and hard right stances of late), more likely these shifting numbers are merely indicative of the Republican Party's growing unpopularity among Americans and the Democrats' corresponding bump in metrics such as the generic congressional ballot. Put in other words, as more Americans sour on the Republican Party, so too will they sour on potential Republican presidential nominees -- media darling John McCain included.
The media can certainly continue to poll on the 2008 presidential election. That's their prerogative. But at this point, such polling today is close to meaningless -- at least in terms of telling us who is going to be the 44th President.