Edwards, a slick liability trial lawyer who managed to win a single term in the Senate, similarly suffers from the empty-suit syndrome. No sooner did he come to the Senate than he spent most of his time campaigning for the White House. Still, the question about Clinton's electability persists.
"'Can Hillary Clinton win?' That is one of the most common questions in American politics these days," veteran election tracker and analyst Charlie Cook wrote last week in his Cook Report. Clinton "is widely derided as 'too polarizing,'" he said.
In the final analysis, Cook thinks she can win, even against a candidate like Rudy Giuliani who has political crossover appeal in the Democratic blue states that Clinton must carry to win.
But some Democrats wonder whether her polarizing image and high negatives will also hurt their most vulnerable candidates down ballot.
A little-noticed August survey conducted by Democratic pollster Celinda Lake showed Giuliani leading Clinton (49 percent to 39 percent) in 31 vulnerable Democratic-held congressional districts and possibly eroding their re-election chances. Giuliani's margin is closer against Obama (41 percent to 40 percent).
In what Lake called a "sobering picture" for the Democrats, she said the poll found both Clinton and Obama "significantly underperforming against the generic Democratic edge." Support for all but two of the 31 Democratic incumbents falls significantly when they are linked to Clinton and her "liberal agenda."
Even so, in an anti-incumbent, anti-Republican, wartime environment, Clinton remains a formidable candidate.
"Which of the states carried by John Kerry would Hillary lose in 2008?" campaign-finance attorney Jan Baran asks. "All Kerry needed to win in 2004 was Ohio," which President Bush carried narrowly.
Even more to the point, which of the Bush states could the Republicans lose next year?
Ohio, now more Democratic than ever, is certainly in jeopardy. So are New Mexico, Nevada and Colorado, where Clinton will likely benefit from large and angry Hispanic voting blocs that gave Bush 40 percent of its vote last time before the immigration fight exploded on Capitol Hill.
One way to counter the Clintons' presidential-restoration juggernaut is to challenge them in the Democratic blue states, an argument that Rudy Giuliani will be making more forcefully in the weeks to come.
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