Polls: New candidates, ideas

17 December 2006 |permalink | email article

The 2008 Iowa caucuses are not until Jan. 14, 2008 but interest in presidential politics is soaring. This will be the first contest since 1952 with no president or vice president running.

Media coverage zeroing in on the frontrunners, notably Democrats, has caused Evan Bayh, a centrist with great promise, to abandon the race because the odds of a successful run “were too great to overcome.”

Polling data, with Iraq a volatile 2007 focus, shows Hillary Clinton the runaway leader among Democrats. Barack Obama, while not well known but riding a high tide of publicity is second, with John Edwards a strong third. (Washington Post/ABC News); (NBC News/Wall Street Journal).

Among Republicans, former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani is slightly ahead with a substantially higher favorability rating (Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg)  over second place John McCain, the conventional wisdom choice. Newt Gingrich is third, followed by Mitt Romney.

What’s refreshing, after the mid-term election, is that Americans in both parties seek new candidates with fresh ideas to move the country forward and away from the divisive “slash and burn” Rovian tactics of yesterday.

A new NBC/WSJ poll reflects this viewpoint with voters expressing their readiness for new kinds of presidential candidates.

Specifically, eight in 10 Americans would be “comfortable” or “enthusiastic” about an African-American or woman running for president – reflected across race, region and age groups – which might benefit Clinton and Obama.

Only 19% would have “some reservations” or be “very uncomfortable”about a Jewish candidate. But 53% would have about a Mormon seeking the White House, with higher misgivings among conservatives and evangelicals.

The finding underscores that the need for Republican Romney to address the issue the way John Kennedy defused concerns about Catholicism in 1960.

If the election were held today, registered voters picked the Democrats by 8 points (Times/Bloomberg). Democrats get a 46% positive rating, up from 36% in January, while a 46%-33% plurality rates Republicans negatively (NBC/WSJ).

The same survey found that while Americans identified themselves with the two parties in equal proportions on Election Day 2004, Democrats now have a robust 44%-31% edge.

Whether the Democrats retain their edge into 2008 may depend in large part on what happens by next summer in Washington and Baghdad.


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