Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Hillary's High Negatives

Here's an excerpt from a column by Stephen Chapman on the obstacles Hillary faces in her presidential campaign. He makes a point that I seldom see mentioned -- Hillary's high negatives.
“Everyone knows Hillary Rodham Clinton, and everyone has a different reaction to her. Some find her as irritating as fingernails on a chalkboard. Some find that she makes their skin crawl. Some run screaming from the room. And some want to drink a gallon of rat poison while lying across a railroad track. The conventional wisdom is that the former first lady will be a formidable presidential candidate because she has lots of money, veteran campaign aides, a shrewd political sense and a close connection to a president beloved by Democrats. But those may be nothing next to a couple of fairly major factors operating against her. The first is that many people in both parties see her as ideologically repellent. Conservatives think she’s an arrogant busybody with an addiction to big government. The Left regards her as a cynical trimmer who can’t admit when she’s wrong. The second is that many people, again in both parties, just can’t stand her. You want a uniter, not a divider? Hillary has a way of uniting people who ordinarily would be pelting each other with eggs. That explains the appeal of the new YouTube ad, modeled on Apple’s famous ‘1984’ Super Bowl commercial, which portrays her as a blandly sinister Big Sister on a giant screen, uttering phony platitudes to an army of robotic slaves. It ends happily when a blonde female athlete sprints in and hurls a sledgehammer at the screen, obliterating the image... As the campaign proceeds, some people will be hoping for her to succeed. But I’m betting a lot more will be rooting for the blonde with the sledgehammer.” —Steve Chapman
Hillary Clinton is a very polarizing figure. In poll after poll, she scores high on both ends and low in the middle -- i.e., there aren't many people who don't have a strong opinion of her. So, on the plus side, there are a lot of liberals who give her high marks and say they would vote for her regardless of who else is running (high positives). But, on the other hand, there are a lot of others who say they wouldn't vote for her regardless of who else is running (high negatives).

Traditionally, it's hard for people with high negatives to get elected. The way it usually works is that a candidate has smaller numbers of high positives and high negatives -- there is a high percentage of folks who don't feel strongly about them one way or another (the folks in the middle). They get elected when they're able to convince sufficient numbers of these "undecideds" in the middle to make up their minds to vote for them.

That's unlikely to happen to Hillary. In fact, the more people get to know her, the less they like her.

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