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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Clinton’s Surprising Advantages

There’s plenty of interesting stuff in the latest Pew Research Center national political survey, and I’ll probably write about it some more later. But one set of findings that fairly jumped off the page involved the internal dynamics of Hillary Clinton’s 51-43 lead over Rudy Giuliani in a hypothetical general election matchup.
Pew compared the two candidates’ support levels in a variety of demographic categories to those of John Kerry and George W. Bush in 2004. And there were some surprises about where HRC is currently doing better than Kerry.
The categories in which HRC’s advantage over Kerry as measured by total percentage of the two-party vote is highest are these: Southern voters (+13); voters believing the invasion of Iraq was the right decision (+12); and white evangelical Protestant voters (+11). She also bests Kerry by 9% among those reporting weekly church attendance, and by 7% among self-identified Republicans (as opposed to no advantage among independents and a drop of 2% among self-identified Democrats).
These aren’t the only categories where the HRC does much better against Giuliani than Kerry did against Bush. Others include voters with no college education (+10); voters in both the top and bottom income categories (+8 for each); and least surprisingly, women (+8). But they certainly don’t comport with the stereotype that HRC is a candidate whose entire appeal is to rank-and-file Democrats.
There are two ways to look at findings like these. One is to suggest that preconceptions aside, HRC is fully capable of harvesting votes from pro-Republican segments of the electorate who are souring on the GOP, and even its strongest current candidate, Giuliani. The other is to dismiss Clinton’s surprisingly positive showing in such segments as an ephemeral phenomenon that would vanish in the course of a highly polarizing general election campaign.
Standing back from all the numbers for a moment, the most astonishing–perhaps even incredible–finding in the Pew poll is that the South is HRC’s strongest region in a contest with Giuliani. No one really thinks she or any other Democrat would come close to winning the region, or winning more than a handful of states, barring a blowout. But even if the findings are off significantly, they certainly aren’t consistent with the widely held view that HRC would be a down-ballot disaster for Democrats in the South. And they are in fact reinforced by a variety of single-state general election polls (particularly those conducted by SurveyUSA) that show HRC running as well as any other Democrat in most southern states, and running ahead of Republican candidates in several.

2 comments on “Clinton’s Surprising Advantages

  1. Craig Charney on

    I’m not sure that polling that puts the South as Hillary’s strongest region should be taken all that seriously, particularly because the Pew poll is something of an outlier. Though recent polls have trended towards Hillary, most show the race as closer and the Quinnipiac poll taken last week has Rudy up by several points.

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  2. OfftheCuff on

    This is very interesting. I’d like to see comments, but there don’t seem to be any. I can tell you that my 88-year-old uncle in South Texas who is a Baptist preacher who voted for Reagan and survived the sinking of his ship in WWII likes Hillary Clinton . The way he said it to my mother seemed to mean he really likes her. Despite the negatives thrown at her, I think a lot of people see the diligent, hard-working, conscientious good daughter that Hillary has been for her whole life. They see good character.

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