Steve Chapman

In a recent USA Today/Gallup poll, only 19 percent of those surveyed had an unfavorable opinion of Barack Obama. Even the abrasive Rudolph Giuliani had only a 22 percent unfavorable score. But 40 percent had an unfavorable opinion of her.

A December poll found 47 percent of Americans would not even consider voting for Hillary. Karlyn Bowman, a polling expert at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington and author of a forthcoming report on attitudes about Hillary, says she can't remember a major party presidential candidate whose negative rating was so high at the start of a campaign.

Conservatives, of course, remember her angry response when her husband was accused of having sex with Monica Lewinsky -- which she dismissed as a smear from a "vast, right-wing conspiracy." It turned out her enemies were telling the truth and she was not.

But even many Democrats find her impossible to take. A recent online poll by The Nation, a leftist magazine, asked readers to name her "greatest weakness." Among the choices it offered, besides her refusal to apologize for supporting the Iraq war resolution, were "her rigid, poll-driven style" and "her tendency to stomp all over her critics."

Much of the support she has comes from people who wish her husband could serve a third term. But weak nostalgia is a poor campaign theme. And Hillary fails on one of the most basic tests: personality.

This is someone, after all, who will be in our living rooms every night for at least four years. Looking back on recent elections, the candidate who wins is usually the more likeable one -- Bush over Gore, Clinton over Dole, Bush over Dukakis, Reagan over Carter. Polls indicate that the aversion to Hillary is less about her politics than about her as a person, and overcoming that sentiment will not be easy.

As the campaign proceeds, some people will be hoping for her to succeed. But I'm betting a lot more will be rooting for the blonde with the sledgehammer.


Steve Chapman

Steve Chapman is a columnist and editorial writer for the Chicago Tribune.
 

 
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