Suddenly, thankfully, it does not seem that Hillary Clinton is on an automatic trajectory to become the next Democratic nominee for president. Two recent polls suggest problems that may loom in her path.
From New York state comes the latest John Zogby poll, forecasting a race for the Senate instead of a cakewalk. For the first time since GOP wannabe Jeanine Pirro dropped out of the race, polls indicate that New Yorkers hare having second thoughts about reelecting Hillary.
While the former first lady was leading her main opponent, John Spencer, 61-31 in Zogby’s Jan. 13 poll, her lead is down to 54-33 in his survey of March 27. Zogby reflects increases in Hillary’s negatives across the board — among Democrats, Republicans and independents. He also shows a sharp drop in moderate and conservative support for Hillary, an indication that the shrill tone of her national attacks on the Bush administration and all things Republican is destroying the carefully cultivated bipartisan image she has sold to New York.
The drop in New York is especially interesting since Spencer has yet to wage any campaign. He has not advertised or been heavily covered by the left-leaning Empire State press corps. Hillary is dropping on her own.
For his part, Spencer is likely to get enough votes at the Republican state convention to stop his primary opponent, K.T. McFarland, from getting on the ballot. While she could petition her way on, that is a very hard task in New York, where one must get signatures in more than half of the counties. In some of these places, Republicans are hard to find.
And on the national level, a revealing insight comes from the Marist Poll of Feb. 22. The survey reported that Hillary finished a far-ahead first among her rivals for the Democratic nomination, getting 40 percent of the Democratic primary vote to former vice-presidential nominee John Edwards’s 16 percent and Sen. John Kerry’s 15 percent.
But, with Al Gore figured into the race, Hillary’s vote share dropped to 33 percent, with the former vice president at 17 percent, Edwards at 16 percent and Kerry at 11 percent. A 33-17 lead over Gore sounds a lot more shaky than 40-16 over Edwards. (And remember, Gore has not even hinted at a candidacy. Once he does — if he does — his numbers are likely to increase rapidly.)
Gore turns Hillary’s left flank and would be able to use his past and present opposition to the war and hefty environmental record to attract liberals repelled by Hillary’s off-again, on-again flirtation with centrism.