Thursday, July 26, 2007

Pollsters think we should prepare for a Clinton presidency

On Tuesday, I went to a "Power Breakfast" sponsored by MSNBC and the National Journal that was moderated by Chris Matthews. It was very interesting.

The panel was made up of Peter Hart, Neil Newhouse, Charlie Cook and Linda Douglas. The guys are all pollsters and Linda is an MSNBC journalist. Peter is a Democrat, Neil is a Republican, and Charlie is non-partisan.

You'd think that they wouldn't agree on much. However, they were all agreed that in January 2009, a Democrat will be taking the oath of office. And that Democrat will probably be Hillary Clinton.

Peter Hart laid out the four things that pollsters look at to predict winners.
  1. Mood of the country
  2. Referendum on current administration
  3. Party Preference
  4. Iraq

All of them favor the Democrats. In fact, the generic poll has 52-31 advantage to the Democrats. The only person who wasn't convinced that Clinton would be the president was Neil who noted that Hillary's negatives are at about 50%. It is hard to win when half the population doesn't like you.

Linda asked about national security as an issue for the Republicans and Charlie Cook said that for the first time since Vietnam and the Cold War, national security because of President Bush's failure in Iraq, has actually turned national security into a liability for Republicans. And speaking of Bush, when Charlie Cook was asked, "How much of a drag is President Bush on the candidates?" by Linda Douglas, he responded, "How big is the sky?"

In fact, all the pollsters acknowledged that there is currently no one in the Republican field that can win a general election. The best Republicans can hope for is for the Democrats to lose it.

Neil said, and everyone agreed with, that national polls are totally useless until February 4, 2008. Until then, only look at IA, NH, NV and SC because the results there will drive the rest of the election cycle. So for candidates that are doing poorly in national polls like Edwards and Richardson, but are doing well in those 4 states polls, they might surprise.

On a more personal level, Governor Richardson got very little attention in the discussion because Chris Matthews kept fighting with the panel about race and gender issues in politics. The panelists all kept saying that they could figure out the bias in polls by using certain techniques, but Matthews was convinced that people would say the politically correct thing on the phone, but vote against a black man or a woman at the polls. Richardson got mentioned because his extensive credentials insulate him from Republicans "dog whistles" regarding his Hispanic heritage. They might be able to tie him to his Hispanic heritage on the immigration issue, but it wouldn't stick as well as an attack on Obama's skin color or Clinton's gender.