There has been a sudden and highly significant shift in the Democratic Presidential race: Hillary Clinton is rapidly losing her frontrunner position to Barack Obama as her negative ratings climb.
According to the Gallup poll, most Americans don't like Hillary Clinton and the number of people who view her negatively has been steadily increasing ever since she announced her candidacy for President in January.
Hillary isn't wearing well. It seems as if the more people see her, the less they like her. Now, for the first time, her low likeability levels are costing her votes, as Democratic party voters are abandoning her to support Barack Obama.
In February, Hillary had a 19 point lead over Obama. He is now only 5 points behind her.
The most recent Gallup Poll, taken on April 13-15th, shows the biggest increase in negative opinions of Hillary since March of 2001, when she was awash in the pardons and White House china theft scandals.
Gallup, which had Hillary's favorability rating up as high as 58% in February, now shows that only 45% of American voters rate her positively, while 52% have negative opinions of her. This is a huge shift.
In the fourteen years that Gallup has been polling Hillary, there have only been two recorded polls with worse ratings for her - the March, 2001 poll where her favorability was 44% and a January, 1996 survey when she scored only 43% favorable.
Capitalizing on Hillary's declining image, Barack Obama, who is rated favorably by 52-27, has now closed to within five points of her in the Democratic Primary trial heat.
The latest numbers are:
Hillary Clinton 31%
Barack Obama 26%
John Edwards 16%
Al Gore 15%
These numbers mean serious problems for Hillary.
Particularly startling is the collapse of her favorability among key demographic subgroups that are usually considered to be stable parts of her political base. Her campaign is premised on a strategy of attracting women – especially young and single women. Yet, in the last month she has lost 7% of her favorability among all women, 10% among women aged 18-49, and 11% among single women. She is losing her base.
The following table compares the Gallup findings for several of these key subgroups in polling between November 9th and March 4th with those in their most recent three surveys taken between March 23rd and April 15th. (Gallup pools its polling in this fashion so each subgroup will have a statistically valid number of interviews)
RATINGS OF HILLARY AMONG KEY SUBGROUPS
|Nov 9 – Mar 4||Mar 23-Apr 15|
The obvious question is this: What has caused this sharp decline? There is no current Hillary or Bill Clinton scandal, for a change. She has not been subjected to any negative media campaign and Obama and Edwards, her two rivals, have been positively gentle in their treatment of her.
So, what's happening?
One is driven to the conclusion that Hillary is defeating herself! Voters are watching the former first lady in her first extended period of national exposure since her health care debacle and don’t like what they see. She appears scripted, phony, artificial, and even boring. Her ridiculous attack on Obama last month completely backfired. And her southern-preacher accent in Selma was downright scary.
Undoubtedly her flip-flop-flips on the Iraq War and insistence that she was just voting to send more U.N. inspectors are also stimulating a sense of cynicism about her and she has no other issue to take its place.
Her overall decline is serious, but her slippage among her key groups – a 10 point drop among all women and an 11 point decline among single women – must be particularly troublesome for her advisers.
Worse, from her point of view, there seems no obvious cure in sight. Hillary is not about to clarify her position on the war as she seeks to straddle a general election strategy of being a moderate with a primary campaign emphasis on moving to the left. She has no national forum for new issue positioning and the more she becomes exposed to public view, the more her negative ratings increase.
And she can't alter her personality more than she already has. In short, Hillary's in trouble.