Hillary Clinton's Hidden Formula For Success

Matt Towery
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Posted: May 03, 2007 12:01 AM
Hillary Clinton's Hidden Formula For Success

While the media continues to have "Obama Fever," I keep looking at poll after poll confirming Hillary Clinton as the clear leader in the Democratic race for the White House.

Let's take a look at her "secret recipe" for winning her party's nomination.

First, take a good number of prominent men who manage to break up the male Democratic vote into small pieces.

Second, capture at least 40 percent of the female Democrats who say they will vote in any given state's presidential primary.

Third, remind as many African-American voters as you can that you are still Bill's wife.

Voila -- you'll likely win most primaries.

Still, many Democrats and Republicans scratch their heads in disbelief when I suggest the foregoing scenario that could lead to Senator Clinton being nominated.

Let's dispel the mystery by dissecting our latest InsiderAdvantage poll, this one from Alabama. We asked whom that state's Democratic voters would vote for if the presidential primary were held today. Here's how they answered:

Hillary Clinton: 40 percent

Barack Obama: 19 percent

John Edwards: 18 percent

Joe Biden: 5 percent

Christopher Dodd: 3 percent

Bill Richardson: 3 percent

Undecided/Don't know: 12 percent

The poll was conducted April 30-May 1, among 500 likely Democratic voters in Alabama. The survey has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percent. The data have been weighted for age, race and gender.

These results are telling. Compared to most of the nation, Alabama's Democrats are conservative. Nevertheless, Clinton leads here, as she does in the Southern states of Georgia and Tennessee. All three states will join bigger ones such as California and New York, plus many others, on a February "Super Tuesday" of presidential primaries.

Factor in that Clinton will win her adopted home state of New York, toss in Georgia -- the 9th most populous state -- and other Southern states, and already we're starting to talk about a pile of delegates.

In this trio of Southern states, our polling shows that Clinton leads Obama because she wins about 40 percent of women. That may sound like a mediocre catch for the widely known female Clinton, but it is the critical threshold at which she must remain.

Her biggest lead is in Alabama. Among the likely reasons why may be some surprises.

For starters, Alabama historically has elected women to high positions, including a recent lieutenant governor.

Also, Clinton only narrowly trails the biracial Obama among African-Americans here. She can thank the "Bill Factor." Lately, she's been making noise about making good, practical political use of "The First Gentleman" if she's elected. That plays well with blacks, who generally loved President Clinton, even if as many can't quite picture Hillary in the same role.

And don't forget Senator Clinton's moderate position on the Iraq war -- or so say many Democrats. This has caused political heartburn among the rabidly faithful, but much less so in Southern and Midwestern states. Democrats in most of them don't like the war, either, but might cut Clinton slack for having voted for the war, given the available information at the time.

Finally, consider "those men." From Edwards to Richardson and in between, male Democratic presidential hopefuls all win just enough support among Democratic voters to prevent any one of them from accumulating enough to seriously challenge Clinton.

For Republicans demoralized by this, there may still be some good news. In our InsiderAdvantage survey of Alabama GOP voters, former Tennessee Senator Fred Thompson trailed former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani by only 21 percent to 19 percent, a statistical tie within the four-point margin of error. This, despite the fact that Giuliani has announced his candidacy and Thompson has not.

These Alabamians may be on to something. Thompson -- maybe even Thompson alone -- could serve as the true threat to an otherwise likely Democratic victory in November 2008.