Michael Barone

The latest NBC/Wall Street Journal poll shows 55 percent of voters consider her "knowledgeable and experienced," but only 38 percent say she is "honest and straightforward," while 40 percent say she's not. Publishing-world gossip is that her current book's sales lag well behind her 2003 memoir.

Certainly she's not getting the adulation lavished on her in editor Tina Brown's 2011 debut Newsweek cover story celebrating "how she's shattering glass ceilings everywhere!" -- a curious comment for the third female secretary of State. It's hard to be the latest new thing when you've been a major public figure for 22 years.

If Clinton's skittering performance illustrates the splits in the Democratic Party, those in the Republican Party have been glaringly apparent for some time.

Potential 2016 Republican presidential candidates have sharp differences on foreign policy generally, on drone strikes and NSA surveillance, on immigration.

They talk of repealing and replacing Obamacare, but don't specifically say how, and present no common front on taxes or entitlements. They blame the sluggish economy, plausibly, on the Obama big-government policies but don't seem anywhere close to proposing specific alternatives.

Republican primary voters have mostly been refraining from nominating dangerously provocative candidates. But their distrust of party leaders was apparent in the surprise defeat of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor.

The perceived failure of Barack Obama's policies is the backdrop here. Polls have shown majority disapproval for the 2009 stimulus package and Obamacare since Obama's first year in office.

And the NBC/WSJ poll is only the latest to show majority disapproval on foreign policy -- and was conducted before the news of collapse in Iraq was fully absorbed.

This has left Clinton with reason to distance herself from Obama even as many Democrats want to move further left. And it has left Republicans with no clear ideas on how to repair the damage at home and abroad.

It's as if both parties are sailing in uncharted waters, with would-be leaders fighting for the tiller.


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