Donald Lambro

WASHINGTON -- Little by little, uncomfortable facts are raising troubling questions about Sen. Hillary Clinton's electability if she becomes the Democratic presidential nominee.

Thus far, none of her political weaknesses as a candidate has changed her front-runner status in the race for the nomination. If anything, she has strengthened her lead over her nearest untested rival, Sen. Barack Obama.

Still, most polls consistently suggest that, while she is the Democratic front-runner in the early run-up to the primaries, she faces huge obstacles in the general election.

For example, a Washington Post-ABC News poll shows she wins a 61 percent majority of Democrats and Democrat-leaning independents among less-educated women with a high-school degree or less. But that number plunges to just 38 percent among female college graduates who turn out to vote in larger numbers.

Questions about her honesty remain problematic, especially among better-educated women. She's considered honest by 42 percent of less-educated women.

But only 19 percent of college-educated women think that about her, compared to 50 percent who say Obama is by far the most honest.

Within the context of the general election, Clinton's overall strength among women changes dramatically. A Post-ABC poll in April found a sizeable 43 percent of women (identifying themselves as independents) who said they would not vote for her if she is the Democratic nominee.

An Associated Press-Ipsos poll last week showed that she maintained a "significant lead among nonwhites and lower-income voters, enjoying the support of half of both groups." But the same poll, confirmed by other surveys, also showed "she has been losing ground among whites" and has been experiencing "dwindling strength among men."

Then there is the likeability factor that remains a very serious problem for Clinton, whose unfavorable scores are higher than any of her rivals.

Nowhere is this problem clearer for her than in Florida, a pivotal state in next year's general election that both sides say remains "competitive."

She is the clear front-runner in the state's Jan. 29 Democratic primary, though polls show she continues to trail former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani in a head-to-head match. The latest Quinnipiac University poll in the state shows Giuliani leading her 47 percent to 42 percent.

Her biggest problem: When likely Florida voters are asked to rate their personal views of the candidates, Clinton's favorability score is 44 percent to 45 percent unfavorable, compared to 52 percent to 27 percent for GOP front-runner Giuliani.


Donald Lambro

Donald Lambro is chief political correspondent for The Washington Times.