Bad news for Clinton and Gore - the "Never" voters

I noticed this Zogby poll that came out on the 15th that has some pretty bad news for the Hillary and Gore campaigns and their supporters. I usually don't take much stock in polls but this one seems to hit the "electability aspect" of the Clinton and Gore candidacies pretty hard.

According to the poll:

The leading Democrat in the race can't feel much solace - nearly half (46%) said they have an aversion to voting for New York Sen. Hillary Clinton. In a national Zogby telephone survey of likely Democratic primary voters in late February, she led the field of Democratic presidential candidates at 33%. It's no surprise Clinton has been written off by a vast majority of self-described conservative (70%) and very conservative (79%) voters, but even among moderate voters, 42% said they would never cast a vote to put Clinton into the White House.

so while she leads the polls nationally and in most states, 46% saying "never" seriously calls into question her ability to win in a national election compared to Edwards (35%) and Obama (33%). And Gore isn't much better.

More over the fold

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Electability Poll

The race for polling firms to outdo each other in 2008 is clearly on. Today, Gallup has released an interesting poll that measuring perceived candidate electability. While, at this point, we do not know if "electability" will play the same dominant role in 2008 that it played in the Democratic primaries in 2004, it certainly goes without saying that electability is a factor that is on the minds of a large number of Democratic voters. Whether or not it is the main factor, or simply one of the main factors, voters will use to determine their candidate selection, and whether or not people believe it is a valid criteria for voters to use in their candidate selection or not, the fact is that among a Democratic base for whom winning is still far from a regular occurrence, electability will continue to play a key role.

The Gallup poll measured the perceived electability of a number of candidates according to partisan self-identification. The poll produces predictably low results for the low name recognition candidates--Biden, Dodd and Richardson--so they will not be discussed here. However, the results among self-identified Democrats for the four high name recognition candidates are certainly worth a look:

Perceived Electability Of Certain Democrats
DemocratName ID Among DemsExcellent Chance of Being ElectedGood ChanceSlim / No Chance
As you can surmise from this table, if someone does not know a candidate, then that person perceives that candidate as having no electability whatsoever. That explains why Biden, Dodd and Richardson were not included in this table. Also, keep in mind that these results are entirely among Democrats. If Independents are not separated by Democratic and Republican leaners, I just can't trust their results. The poll does have results for Republicans and Independents, and it shows they are both pretty well convinced that Clinton and Obama can win. You can view those results here.

Now, these results are interesting for several reasons. First, Clinton leads the "electability" perception poll not only because of higher name recognition, but also because of a hardcore group of supporters who believe in her--the 37% who give her an "excellent" chance of winning. Second, it appears that everyone who knows Obama thinks that Obama has at least a "good" chance of winning. Third, Edwards has decent electability perceptions, but are clearly lower than Obama's, despite the two sharing nearly identical name recognition numbers. Fourth, Gore has surprisingly low electability perception among Democrats, as he lags well behind both Edwards and Obama in this category despite a noticeably higher name recognition.

Now, some commenters may gnash their teeth about these results all they wish, and argue that the Democratic public is wrong about the varying chances each candidate has to win the Presidency. However, if nothing else, I think this poll offers insight into how the public views electability, which might be very different from how people online view it. For Clinton, I would bet a lot of money that the main reason she is viewed as so electabile is because her husband, bill, actually won the Presidency twice. For Obama, I think his high electability perception comes from a general sense that he is just a winner. On that front, I am reminded of Patrick Murphy, who through his persona was able to convince pretty much every Democratic activist in the Philadelphia area that he would win (and then probably achieve higher office later on) even though I rarely remember him ever once making an electability argument. Having met both of them, I think Obama and Murphy offer similarly overwhelming sensations that they just can't be stopped. When it comes to Edwards, I bet his slightly lower perceived electability derives from being on the Kerry-Edwards ticket in 2004. When it comes to Gore, I don't think Democrats are very happy with how the 2000 election was run, even if they believe it was stolen in the end.

Certainly, these electability perceptions are having an impact on current polling, but exactly what degree of impact they are having is difficult to say. Obviously, even if my inferred rationale for these numbers are wrong, it is clear that the Democratic rank and file perceives electability differently than we do online. For us, it is connected to concepts like favorability numbers, base excitement, how well a candidate is able to deal with the Republican smear machine, and what key demographics / states a given candidate might be able to help swing. I do not think that these factors played significant roles in the numbers we see above. If the netroots wants their type of electability to become the dominant form, it will take a massive rank and file education project.

In the extended entry, I have made up an electability poll for MyDD readers to take. Simply click on all of the candidates you think have either a "good" chance or an "excellent" chance of winning. You can vote for as many candidates as you like.

Playing the Electability Card

This isn't cool:But it was Penn who stated that no other Democrat is tough enough to beat back Sen. John McCain or former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani.

In a clear reference to Obama's lack of political experience on the national stage, Penn wrote: "Some of the commentators look at the ratings of people who have not yet been in the cross-fire, and say they might have a better chance. Recent history shows the opposite."

He then set his sights on Sen. John Kerry and former Vice President Al Gore, who also might run in 2008. "The last two Democratic presidential candidates started out with high favorable ratings and ended up on Election Day - and today - far more polarizing and disliked nationally," said the pollster, who cut his teeth on President Bill Clinton's 1996 re-election campaign. Even though there is currently no candidate in the 2008 field who I back strongly enough to actually advocate on his or her behalf, there are still many things I would like to accomplish during the primary season. One of my goals is to help diffuse the Democratic obsession with electability, whichI believe is extremely damaging to the party around the country. It makes Democrats appear pandering (we will tell you what we think you want to hear in order to get elected), shiftless (we don't stand for anything except getting elected), out of touch (our ideas aren't good enough to get us elected--we have to change and move toward Republicans in order to achieve office) and dishonest (we can trick people into voting for someone based on his or her resume / demographic profile). In short, in the effort to make one Democrat look good, playing the electability card makes the whole party look bad, and more interested in power for the sake of power than power in order to do actual good.

It is sad to see the Clinton camp to play the electability card so early in the process, even if it isn't entirely surprisingly that it was DLC-nexus uber-pollster Mark Penn who did it. This is a guy who has made a name triangulating against Democrats and progressives, and whose firm has of late quite literally made a living by shilling anti-Democratic messages for pharmaceutical companies without disclosure. This is the sort of shit that has to stop, and stop now. Democrats need to be made to feel strong incentives against this sort of behavior.

That goes for people in the netroots who echo the Republican line that Clinton isn't electable, too. Not only does proclaiming Clinton unelectable do the Republican Noise Machine's bidding, it is just doubly sad to see progressives use the same tactics against the DLC-nexus that have for so long been used to weaken us. We can't win an electability war against the DLC-nexus. I mean, they invented the concept in order to destroy us. The netroots might as well try to win Democratic primaries by raking in more donations for corporate PACs as do DLC-nexus candidates. Not. Gonna. Happen.

TNR Deems Edwards Moderate

Last month, I argued that there was only room in media discourse for one "Un-Hillary," and that the lack of consensus about Hillary Clinton's political profile creates the potential for that "Un-Hillary" to emerge from the left or from the right.  Over at TNR, Ryan Lizza suggests, I think rightly, that John Edwards' star as a candidate for the Un-Hillary mantle is rising at the moment.  There's plenty to agree with in his analysis.  And then his piece ends with a peculiar turn of phrase:

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MT-Sen: How Jon Tester Won

One week ago, Montana voters went to the polls and made a bold statement that the old political math is no longer relevant. State Auditor John Morrison is a big money, big connections, DLC candidate -- the template of the DC Establishment manufactured candidate that has been so trendy on the DC cocktail circuit over the last few losing election seasons. State Senate President Jon Tester is a bold leader who ran a grasssroots campaign, he ran on the issues without worrying about the polls or offending anyone.

John Morrison had been elected twice statewide, had higher name recognition, twice the money, and lead in the polls. Jon Tester had been elected to a legislative district so rural that he actually represents a greater land mass than 18 members of the U.S. Senate.

Jon Tester won in a 26 point LANDSLIDE, winning many counties by a 2:1 margin and some by more:

So what happened and why? Here are what some people are saying about he results...

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