Donald Lambro

WASHINGTON -- The 2008 presidential-election cycle is full of odd anomalies reflecting the electorate's deep divisions and doubts about the candidates and their uncertainties about the future.

New York Sen. Hillary Clinton, for example, has an almost prohibitive lead over her nearest rivals for the Democratic presidential nomination, but polls show that, in the larger electorate, she has the highest voter negatives of anyone in the race.

A recent Gallup Poll asked Americans to rate the top candidates on a temperature scale to measure how they felt about them, with zero being the coldest and 100 being the warmest.

Gallup said last week that nearly as many Americans rated her "totally cold" as those who rated her warm. The survey confirmed many months of polling that shows nearly as many Americans have a negative view of Clinton as have a positive impression.

Gallup said this obviously raised questions about her electability in the general election and suggested her strongest rivals (Sen. Barack Obama was seen as the warmest of the Democrats) would stand a better chance of winning the presidency in the fall of 2008 than someone who was so intensely disliked by nearly half of all eligible voters.

It seems that Democrats have a tendency to nominate candidates who are not terribly warm or likeable. Think John Kerry, aloof, cold, gloomy, or Michael Dukakis, arrogant, sanctimonious, humorless.

But Republicans have many of their own anomalies, too.

We can start with the strangest turn in recent political history: The GOP's front-runner, Rudy Giuliani, is from New York City, the bastion of American liberalism, whose highest elective office has been mayor.

This is a dramatic change in a right-of-center party where conservatives have had a lock on the nominating process since 1964, and its nominees have been senators, vice presidents, former veeps and governors.

But Giuliani wasn't just any mayor. He was the widely acknowledged hero who led the city's dramatic comeback from the 9/11 attacks, a man who rescued and ran the financial capital of the world. He cut taxes, restored law and order and has made the war on terrorism/keep our country safe the basis of his candidacy -- hardly a squishy, soft New York liberal.

Even so, he still faces another anomaly in his race for the nomination. If things stand where they are now in the Republican contests, it looks like Giuliani will lose the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire and Michigan primaries, and possibly the South Carolina primary, to Mitt Romney, who is running fourth in most of the national polls.

Presidential candidates rarely lose so many early contests and then go on to win their party's nomination.


Donald Lambro

Donald Lambro is chief political correspondent for The Washington Times.