Who is the Most Popular Political Figure in America?

Daniel Doherty

2/9/2013 6:00:00 PM - Daniel Doherty

I’ll give you a hint: it’s not the president of the United States or the Republican governor of New Jersey. So that leaves … yep:

President Barack Obama defeated Hillary Clinton in the 2008 Democratic presidential primary, but today the former Senator and Secretary of State is more popular, with a 61 – 34 percent favorability rating among American voters, compared to the president’s 51 – 46 percent favorability, according to a Quinnipiac University national poll released today.

President Obama has a split 46 – 45 percent job approval, according to the independent Quinnipiac (KWUIN-uh-pe-ack) University poll, down from 53 – 40 percent approval among registered voters in December, a month after his re-election. Today’s figure is closer to the president’s negative 45 – 49 percent job approval in July, in the middle of his reelection campaign, and similar to his job score for much of his first term.

Ms. Clinton’s favorability is higher than those measured for other national figures:

· 46 – 41 percent for Vice President Joseph Biden;

· 25 – 29 percent for former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, with 45 percent who don’t know enough about him to form an opinion;

· 20 – 42 percent for House Speaker John Boehner;

· 27 – 15 percent for Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, with 57 percent who don’t know enough;

· 34 – 36 percent for U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan;

· 43 – 33 percent for new Secretary of State John Kerry;

· 14 – 18 percent for Defense Secretary nominee Chuck Hagel, with 67 percent who don’t

know enough about him.

“Hillary Clinton ends her term as Secretary of State and the bruising inquiry into the Benghazi murders as easily the most popular actor on the American political stage today,” said Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.

“After an initial burst of reelection enthusiasm for President Barack Obama, we may be seeing a return to the age of the polarized electorate.”

“The difference in favorability ratings for the two leaders lies in Clinton’s ability to win thumbs up from many more independent voters and Republicans than does the president,” said Brown. “The lower approval numbers for the president could be because once the election afterglow is gone, governing inevitably requires decisions that make some voters unhappy.”

A total of 68 percent of American voters are “somewhat dissatisfied” or “very dissatisfied” with the way things are going today, while 31 percent are “very satisfied” or “somewhat satisfied.”

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton escaped the Benghazi hearings a few weeks ago miraculously unscathed. (In fact, she received nothing but lavish praise from Congressional Democrats and fared infinitely better than Obama’s SecDef and top general when they were on the hot seat). She skillfully parlayed most Republican attack lines and “gotcha” questions with ease, even though a number of questions were not asked, let alone answered. But I can’t say I’m that surprised, though. Hillary's a skilled and cunning politician, so much so that the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination is probably hers -- if she wants it. And judging by the lavish praise the president showered on her during that final sit-down interview on CBS before she left her post, she's already off to a great start.

That being said, if Secretary Clinton does decide to run for president in 2016, her favorability rating will probably plummet. Presidential politics is a bruising and brutal business -- as Hillary darn well knows. But even when her likability numbers begin to slip (again, if she enters the race) she couldn’t be in a better position politically before taking the plunge.

So let's hope the Republicans are recruiting an equally compelling candidate in 2016. After all, eight years of Barack Obama is bad enough … but twelve years without a Republican in the White House would be even worse.

(H/T Erika Johnsen)