Beyond the Poll Numbers, Voter Doubts About Clinton
By Lois Romano
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, July 13, 2006; A01
Anna Shelley, a mother of three from Utah, says she is ready for a female president, and she is sure that Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton has what it takes.
But Shelley, a Democrat, is not sure she could ever pull a lever for Clinton. Her reservations are vague but unmistakable: Something about Clinton leaves her cold.
"I want to see her as a human being -- I can read a newspaper and see her agenda," said Shelley, 27, whose husband did a tour in Iraq and who is appreciative of Clinton's support of the military.
"I think she's a little hard," she said. "She may be strong, but at the same time, if you're driven sometimes you're perceived as not having sympathy. And perception is reality for most of us."
It is a reality that Clinton's advisers are confronting as they seek to position the former first lady for a possible 2008 presidential run. They expect that any campaign would begin after this fall's election, in which Clinton, a Democrat, is running for a second Senate term from New York.
Never has a politician stepped onto a presidential stage before an audience of voters who already have so many strong and personal opinions about her, or amid arguments that revolve around the intangibles of personality and the ways people react to it.
Clinton's assets are formidable: an unrivaled ability to generate publicity and money, and approval ratings that are notably strong, given her polarizing reputation and the controversies she has weathered over 15 years in the national eye. In recent public opinion polls, she handily leads potential Democratic rivals.
Beneath these positives, however, there is evidence of unease -- about her personal history, demeanor and motives -- among the very Democratic and independent voters she would need to win the presidency.
A recent Washington Post-ABC News poll highlighted the paradox. Fifty-four percent of those responding view her favorably, and a significant majority give her high marks for leadership (68 percent), strong family values (65 percent), and being open and friendly (58 percent). At the same time, only 37 percent of Democrats in the poll say they would definitely vote for her for president.
A Gallup poll from last summer also highlighted a perception that she is too divisive, with 53 percent of respondents saying they do not view her as someone who would "unite the country and not divide it."
Follow-up interviews with skeptical Democrats and independents who participated in the Post-ABC News poll suggest that many view her as an inscrutable public figure who gets high marks for her ability and intellect but who nonetheless gives them pause because they find it difficult to relate to her on a personal level.
"The reason I am not able to say I am strongly supportive of her is because -- and this is just vibes -- she does not project a sense of what is inside of her like her husband did," said Sam Hack 59, a self-described liberal Democrat from St. Louis.
Others said they see a persona too calibrated. "There's no question she's competent and very intelligent, but people want to see authentic human beings, and she has overly managed herself," said Peter Brooks, 68, a professor of English at the University of Virginia and a liberal Democrat who has an unfavorable view of Clinton.
Penn and Carville have to be shitting themselves.
She's got the Nelson Rockefeller problem, no one trusts her, and they don't know why.The only people who want her to run for President are inside the Beltway. Because who supports Clinton? Clearly not liberals from this article, not moderates from a New Yorker piece and well her shoving Lieberman into the street means the neocons have no use for her.
I mean when Penn and Carville said she could win the south, I know I laughed my ass off. Dems in the South do not want Hillary Clinton near them.
Her people think she can redefine herself, but she was first lady for God's sake. Reminding them she's a Methodist will only suggest pandering.
Clinton's problems are two fold and of her own making.
One, she is the personification of a liberal feminist. From her haircut to her mannerism, she is the living symbol of modern feminism.
Two, her stands are completely centrist, leaning towards pandering to the right.
Which makes two sets of people who do not trust her. People wary of feminists and people who dislike compromising with the right. She makes no friends doing that.
Clinton leads solely because of name recognition, but voters do not trust her to do the right thing instinctively. This is another case where the bloggers have been blamed for being anti-Hillary, but the poll shows a lot more discontent than from bloggers. It's her potential base which doesn't trust her as president.
And I don't know how you beat that.
posted by Steve @ 12:07:00 AM