Michael Barone

Democrats are more confident this year, with some reason. Polls show that voters prefer a generic Democrat to a generic Republican by solid margins. And Democrats seem pretty settled in their preferences for candidates. Hillary Clinton averaged 34 percent in December-January polls, 36 percent in February, 34 percent in April and 35 percent in May-June.

Barack Obama, at 18 percent in December-January, rose to 23 percent in February-March, then flatlined -- 25 percent in April, 24 percent in May-June. John Edwards was at 12 percent in December-January, 13 percent in February-March, 16 percent in April and 13 percent in May-June.

The Democratic electorates in the early contests are more similar to their national electorates than their Republican counterparts, with the exception of Iowa, where Edwards has been campaigning nearly nonstop since 2004. But the two most recent polls there show him slipping behind Hillary Clinton. The $400 haircuts and the $479,000 gig at the hedge fund (to study poverty, he says) seem to be hurting there.

On one thing the two sets of candidates seem to be converging. The Democrats continually attack George W. Bush, and the Republicans increasingly have critical things to say about him. All the Republicans but John McCain oppose the immigration bill he supports, and all including McCain have tried to suggest in various ways that they will prosecute the struggle against Islamist terrorists more competently than Bush. They'll need to prove that to get nominated -- and to overcome the Democrats' generic edge in November.

Michael Barone

Michael Barone, senior political analyst for The Washington Examiner (www.washingtonexaminer.com), is a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, a Fox News Channel contributor and a co-author of The Almanac of American Politics. To find out more about Michael Barone, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com. COPYRIGHT 2011 THE WASHINGTON EXAMINER. DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS.COM