Wednesday, October 03, 2007


Bad news for Obama on the front cover of today's Washington Post:

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton has consolidated her place as the front-runner in the contest for the Democratic presidential nomination, outpacing her main rivals in fundraising in the most recent quarter and widening her lead in a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.

For the first time, Clinton (N.Y.) is drawing support from a majority of Democrats -- and has opened up a lead of 33 percentage points over Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.). Her popularity, the poll suggests, is being driven by her strength on key issues and a growing perception among voters that she would best represent change.


Among Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents, 53 percent support Clinton, compared with 20 percent for Obama and 13 percent for former senator John Edwards (N.C.).

Despite rivals' efforts to portray her as too polarizing to win the general election, a clear majority of those surveyed, 57 percent, said Clinton is the Democratic candidate with the best chance on Nov. 4, 2008. The percentage saying Clinton has the best shot at winning is up 14 points since June. By contrast, 20 percent think Edwards is most electable and 16 percent think Obama is, numbers that represent a huge blow to the "electability" argument rivals have sought to use against her.

One of the central claims of Obama's campaign is that he is best suited to lower partisan tensions in Washington. But, in this poll, more see Clinton as best able to reduce partisanship.

On major issues, Democrats are far more likely to trust her than her main competitors -- 52 percent trust her most on Iraq, compared with 22 percent who trust Obama most on the war and 17 percent who trust Edwards most. On health care, 66 percent trust her most to handle the issue, compared with 15 percent for Obama and 14 percent for Edwards. Half see Clinton as the candidate who best reflects the "core values" of the Democratic Party.

Democrats remain roughly evenly divided over whether they want a candidate of change or of experience, the dichotomy that has been widely used to sum up the party's race so far. Fifty percent said they prefer a candidate who emphasizes a new direction, and 42 percent said they want a proven, steady leader.

In both cases, support for Clinton has grown.

Two months ago, 51 percent of voters seeking a candidate of "strength and experience" picked Clinton as their favorite. Now 62 percent of voters in this category support Clinton.

Among those looking for a "new direction and new ideas," Clinton now has an edge, with support from 45 percent -- compared with 31 percent for Obama. Previously, these "change voters" were split evenly between Clinton and Obama.

Overall, support for Clinton exceeds 50 percent for the first time in the campaign. In five previous Post-ABC polls this year, she hovered in the low to mid-40s.

Support for Obama, now at 20 percent, has softened since early September and stands at its lowest point since he entered the race in February. Support for Edwards has remained essentially stable. New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, Sens. Joseph R. Biden Jr. (Del.) and Christopher J. Dodd (Conn.), Rep. Dennis J. Kucinich (Ohio), and former senator Mike Gravel (Alaska) all registered in the low single digits.
If Obama cannot even win the "electability" argument, he cannot win this race.

Not unless something dramatic happens between now and Iowa, at any rate.

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