Skip to comments.Insiders Poll 2008 (Clinton, McCain Top Party Lists; Obama, Romney Place 2nd)
Posted on 12/08/2006 6:48:39 AM PST by BlackRazor
Insiders Poll 2008
By James A. Barnes, National Journal
© National Journal Group Inc.
Friday, Dec. 8, 2006
When the young Frenchman Alexis de Tocqueville toured the United States in the early 19th century, he made an observation about presidential elections that still rings true: "For a long while before the appointed time has come, the election becomes the important and, so to speak, all-engrossing topic of discussion."
National Journal's latest survey of Democratic and Republican Insiders -- members of Congress, party activists, fundraisers, consultants, lobbyists, and interest-group leaders for whom presidential politics is an "all-engrossing topic" -- finds that Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton and Republican John McCain continue to be viewed as the candidates most likely to clinch the major parties' 2008 presidential nominations.
The Insiders' assessments of the 2008 contests have changed considerably since May [PDF]. Back then, Republican Sen. George Allen of Virginia was ranked second by his party's Insiders, after having been in first place throughout 2005. But on his way to losing his bid for a second term, Allen tripped repeatedly over his own feet -- and has now vanished from the top 10. Another Democrat, former Virginia Gov. Mark Warner, ran second in May but disappeared from the Insiders' top 10 after formally announcing that he will not run. Meanwhile, political phenomenon Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., who in May made his first appearance on his party's top-10 list by grabbing the lowest rung, has rocketed to the No. 2 spot -- putting him just ahead of former Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina but still well behind Clinton.
Insiders were asked to list and rank the top five contenders for their party's 2008 presidential nomination. In tallying scores, a first-place vote was worth 5 points; a second-place score, 4 points; and so on. National Journal's top 10 rankings are based on each candidate's overall score. In all, 220 Insiders participated in this survey: 70 Congressional Insiders (36 Democratic lawmakers, 34 Republican ones) and 150 Political Insiders (73 Democrats, 77 Republicans).
GOP front-runner McCain, who at 70 has taken to joking that he's "older than dirt," contrasts starkly with the trio of Democrats viewed as having the best chances of winning their party's nomination. Not only is he considerably older than any of them, the Arizonan also has 20 years' experience in the Senate -- more than Clinton, Obama, and Edwards combined. Sen. Clinton, her party's solid front-runner, is hot off a landslide re-election in New York to a second term. Obama has been in the Senate only since January 2005. He was an Illinois state senator for eight years. Edwards served a single Senate term. Likewise, Warner is relatively inexperienced: He had one four-year term in Richmond.
Inexperience isn't limited to the Democratic field, however. The No. 2 ranking Republican, Mitt Romney, has been in elected office only four years -- as governor of Massachusetts. "Experience," observed Democratic pollster Mark Mellman, "is something that is overvalued by people who have it and undervalued by people who don't."
Democrats have been touting Hillary Clinton as a presidential candidate ever since she was elected to the Senate in the final months of her husband's second term in the White House. And since April 2005 [PDF], when National Journal began conducting its 2008 presidential poll, Democratic Insiders have consistently ranked her as the contender most likely to capture the party's nomination. Potential rivals have risen and fallen, but Clinton's standing has remained strong and steady.
Democrats' Top 10 for 2008
1. Hillary Rodham Clinton
2. Barack Obama
3. John Edwards
4. Al Gore
5. Evan Bayh
6. Tom Vilsack
7. Bill Richardson
8. Joseph Biden
9. Wesley Clark
10. Christopher Dodd
Although two-thirds of Democrats [PDF] predict that Clinton will win their party's nomination, three out of four think that someone else would be a stronger general election candidate. But they do not agree on who that person might be: Despite receiving only 25 percent of the Democratic Insiders' votes, Clinton was ahead of all of her competitors.
Democrats, having narrowly lost the 2000 presidential election, put a premium on "electability" four years later, only to see Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts lose. If electability again tops the Democrats' wish list, Clinton could eventually encounter problems. For now, though, she's definitely not plagued by the woes that typically afflict lesser-known candidates struggling for credibility. Contributors, party activists, and the news media take her very seriously.
The idea that Hillary Clinton just might become the first female president fires the imagination of many Democrats. Others yearn for a restoration of the Clinton White House. Already, Sen. Clinton is the first female front-runner for a major party's presidential nomination. And her campaign's potential to make history means it won't lack for excitement or volunteers.
Sen. Clinton has ties to the Democratic fundraising establishment that go back more than a decade, and one of her top advisers, former Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe, is the undisputed king of party buck-raking. He broke fundraising records in 1995 as the finance chairman for Bill Clinton's re-election campaign. He'd be likely to do the same in 2007 for the former president's wife. And it's hard to imagine reporters not covering nearly every word Hillary Clinton utters on the campaign trail.
So between now and January 2008, she'll have no dearth of volunteers, money, or press if indeed she does run. But should Clinton stumble anywhere in the opening round of the caucuses and primaries, doubts about her electability will likely grow.
Ironically, a solid majority of Republican Insiders, 57 percent, see her as the strongest nominee the Democrats could field. When Clinton first ran for the Senate, many Republicans dismissed her as a carpetbagger best known for fumbling health care reform in her husband's first term. Few dismiss her now. "Everyone that's watched her operate and perform in the Senate is totally impressed," said Republican lobbyist Scott Reed, who managed former Sen. Bob Dole's 1996 presidential campaign. "She's picked her battles carefully and become a real force: Look at how Republicans have been falling all over one another to co-sponsor legislation with her."
If Clinton does run for the White House, the expectations game will be much different from what it was in her first campaign for elected office. As the front-runner, she probably has to compete everywhere -- or risk raising questions about the limits of her political strength.
Each of the first four contests now on the Democratic Party schedule for January 2008 -- caucuses in Iowa and Nevada followed by primaries in New Hampshire and South Carolina -- could be difficult for her. That's especially true in down-home Iowa, where Clinton's status as a political rock star and its distinct advantages -- the volunteers, money, media attention -- might not play well.
Des Moines Register polls in June and September showed that Edwards is the early favorite of Iowa Democrats. Clinton, who was careful to steer clear of Iowa and New Hampshire while running for re-election, came in second. Edwards is campaigning tirelessly in Iowa after having finished second to Kerry in the 2004 caucuses. Edwards is tacking to Clinton's left on the war in Iraq, which is extremely unpopular among party activists. He has been saying for months that the U.S. should pull 40,000 troops out of Iraq right away and the remainder within 18 months. Clinton has called only for a general troop redeployment out of Iraq. And unlike Clinton, Edwards has apologized for voting in 2002 to authorize President Bush to use force in Iraq. Also to Clinton's left on the war is Obama, who wasn't in the Senate at the time of the invasion but opposed it.
When Democratic Insiders were asked whether Clinton's gender would hurt her in the general election, a plurality said it would be neither a plus nor a minus. More Insiders, however, considered it a plus than a minus. The comments from those who said it would have "no impact" on the race were revealing. "Her sex is not part of the equation: She's Hillary!" gushed one Democratic Insider. "Hillary is celebrity, not male or female," said another. And a third mused, "The country is ready for a woman president, but are they ready for Hillary is the question."
If Obama runs, the Democratic stage would have two rock stars. His mixed-race heritage is part of what makes many Democrats embrace him as the herald of a new era, but Democratic Insiders think that his race is much more likely to hurt than help him in a general election. To a lesser extent, Republican Insiders agree.
The outsized personas now attached to Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama can sometime be difficult to fit into a Des Moines living room filled with party activists who want to feel a personal sense of connection with a candidate before they sign on. Traveling with a small army of advance people and reporters will not make forging such connections easy. Iowa and its caucuses were made for dogged and humble candidates, not rock stars.
Nobody knows what to expect in the Nevada caucuses because only about 9,000 people participated in 2004. The Democratic National Committee added the Silver State to the early calendar of events to give more ethnic (Hispanic) and geographical (West) diversity to the nominating process. Edwards's championing of low-wage workers may give him at least a foothold with the hotel and resort employees who are a big part of the state's economy.
In New Hampshire, many Democratic activists fondly take credit for resuscitating Bill Clinton's first presidential campaign after it was buffeted by stories of his Vietnam-era draft avoidance. Clinton, who didn't compete in the Iowa caucuses in 1992, finished second in the primary and earned the nickname "The Comeback Kid." Sen. Clinton can probably expect a warm reception in the Granite State, despite its strong anti-war sentiment.
South Carolina could be more problematic for Clinton.
Edwards, who was born in the state, won its primary in 2004; Obama, whose father was African, could also fare well in a state where nearly half of the primary electorate is African-American.
Another Southerner, former Vice President Gore, is ranked fourth by the Democratic Insiders in terms of his prospects for the party's presidential nomination, despite his insistence that he has no interest in seeking the Oval Office again. Although many Democratic operatives have unhappy memories of his wooden 2000 run for the White House, they remain intrigued that after six years out of the political game, Gore, who has plenty of experience and a powerful signature issue in global warming, remains a potentially formidable contender. And, of course, he has proven that he can win the popular vote for president.
Rounding out the top five on the Democratic side is Sen. Evan Bayh of Indiana. For a long shot, the former two-term governor has done a remarkably good job of laying the groundwork for a presidential campaign.
The latest rankings indicate that McCain is continuing to solidify his role as the Republican front-runner: 73 percent of GOP Insiders [PDF] ranked the senator from Arizona as the Republican most likely to be nominated, and another 23 percent ranked him second. A solid majority, 56 percent, also think that he'd be the strongest general election candidate their party could field. And McCain impresses Democrats even more: 71 percent said he'd be the strongest Republican nominee.
Republicans' Top 10 for 2008
1. John McCain
2. Mitt Romney
3. Rudy Giuliani
4. Newt Gingrich
5. Mike Huckabee
6. George Pataki
7. Chuck Hagel
8. Condoleezza Rice
9. Sam Brownback
10. Bill Frist
Since April 2005, McCain's steady rise in National Journal's survey of Republican Insiders reflects the broad success he's had in persuading skeptics in the GOP establishment and in its conservative base that he represents the party's best shot at holding the White House in 2008. McCain narrowly trailed Allen when Republican Insiders were asked in April [PDF] and December [PDF] of 2005 to rank the nomination prospects of the party's presidential hopefuls. At the time, Allen, a former governor of Virginia with solid conservative credentials, got high marks for a folksy personal style that reminded many Republicans of President Bush. But Bush's popularity began to slide. Even before Allen's "macaca" disaster, GOP Insiders started discounting Allen's chances and they propelled McCain ahead of him last May [PDF].
Retiring Massachusetts Gov. Romney has moved into second place, assuming the position that Allen held until losing his re-election bid last month. Eighteen percent of the Insiders ranked Romney as the most likely nominee; 52 percent listed him second.
For now, Romney is McCain's chief rival in the minds of many Republican Insiders around the country. But a majority of Republican Insiders think that Romney's Mormon religion would hurt him in the general election. Half of Democrats think it will have no impact.
More than any of the other would-be Republican nominees, Romney and McCain have built strong campaign organizations in the states with early contests and have aggressively recruited potential fundraisers. But Allen's departure from the ranks of leading contenders isn't an unqualified bonus for Romney.
Romney is attempting to rally conservatives who are suspicious of McCain, and ideologically he is probably closer to Allen than McCain is. Nevertheless, by 4-to-1, the Republican Insiders who in May thought that Allen had the best chance to win the nomination now view McCain, not Romney, as the GOP's most likely nominee. That's another small indicator that McCain is gradually drawing the party establishment into his camp.
Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani finished third in the Insiders poll, collecting just 5 percent of the first-place votes and 20 percent of the second-place votes. Many Republican operatives have doubted that "America's mayor" will run. But his formation of a presidential exploratory committee immediately after the midterm elections was the most tangible sign that he might be serious about running. If he is, he could pose a real threat to McCain. Both are known for their independent streaks, and both would be likely to attract support from party moderates, who are usually only an afterthought in Republican presidential nominating contests.
For the first time since National Journal's initial 2008 presidential survey was conducted in April 2005, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich of Georgia broke into the top five rankings, finishing fourth. A year ago, Gingrich was eighth. Allen's defeat and departing Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist's recent decision not to run have created a huge opening for Gingrich. With his party even more firmly anchored in the South because of its midterm losses, Gingrich may well decide that the stars are aligning in his favor.
Yet the Georgian stepped back a bit from the contest on November 19, when he said on Fox News Sunday that he wouldn't announce his decision until September of next year. Entering the contest relatively late could make Gingrich seem like a fresh face, especially if the leading Republicans have been savaging one another. On the other hand, a late entry would make it much harder to compete in Iowa, where early recruiting helps to build organizations that turn out supporters for the caucuses.
But it's not just the caucuses that require an organization in Iowa. The Iowa GOP plans to hold a straw poll for party activists on August 11. A poor showing can doom a Republican White House hopeful, which is exactly what happened in 1999. Within days of finishing sixth in the straw poll, Lamar Alexander dropped out. Former Vice President Quayle came in eighth, then watched his top supporters in New Hampshire and South Carolina bail out. Just over a month later, Quayle withdrew from the race.
Then there's the question of whether to participate in presidential debates. The South Carolina Republican Party has already scheduled a major debate for May 15. Although Gingrich is skilled at attracting press coverage, if he's not included in early GOP debates -- and it's hard to imagine his rivals would tolerate his presence if he wasn't a declared candidate -- he'd run the risk of activists and the news media not taking his presidential ambitions seriously.
Anything that keeps Gingrich on the sidelines would probably help retiring Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee. Best known nationally for losing weight and keeping if off, Huckabee came in fifth in the Republican Insiders rankings of the GOP presidential nominating prospects. A year ago, he was 12th.
As both the Republican and Democratic presidential hopefuls start setting up exploratory committees, they'll also begin lining up finance teams and deploying staff to states with early caucuses or primaries. Although those moves aren't likely to change the contenders' standing in the public opinion polls, activists in both parties will be watching closely and their reactions will help winnow the still-crowded fields.
Conservatives: Brownback, Hunter
Moderate Conservatives: McCain, Hagel, Romney, Gingrich
Moderate Liberals: Giuliani, Pataki
Brownback, perhaps. He's a no-hoper, though. Duncan Hunter is the real deal, but he's not on the list. The rest are sell-outs and will not get my vote. Ever.
Well, moderate Republicans are still miles ahead of any Democrat.For instance, McCain offended us on some issues( McCain-Feingold, amnesty) but was vigorously supportive of our troops and appointment of conservative judges. You will get nothing from Democrats. Not saying that he's the best candidate for conservatism out there though.
Well, we have the 'moderates' and 'moderation' to thank for our present circumstances, don't we? Let's give 'extremism' a chance, eh?
That's not right. We have the extreme left media and extreme left grassroots to thank for due to their propaganda barrage prior to the elections. The extreme left was able to dominate the incoming Congress in that manner.
I know he did, and finished next last in his class. The later is something he often mentions but the significance seems lost on him. I think a state university, non-elitist mentality would be good.
Only partly true. It was Republicans' absolute unwillingness to fight back and their failure to govern as real Republicans (i.e., their near total abandonment of conservative principles) that cost them the fight.
Most Republicans were too busy doing the Rodney King dance (can't we all just get along?) rather than standing up with intilligent, spit-in-your-eye refutations of the lies and slander heaped upon them. Trouble is, if you don't really believe in what you stand for, there's not going to be much fight in you. And that's the REAL problem, isn't it?
Someone needs to tell that to Obama:
Listen, I think its great that the Republican Party has discovered black people. But heres the thing... You dont vote for somebody because of what they look like. You vote for somebody because of what they stand for. Sen. Barack Obama stumping for white Democrat Ben Cardin in Maryland against his black Republican opponent, Maryland Lt. Governor Michael Steele
I know that all of you are going to work the next couple of days to make sure it happens, because Im feeling lonely in Washington. I need my dear friend to join me. Sen. Obama stumping for black Democrat Harold Ford, Jr. in Tennessee