MORE FRAILER THAN THE FLOWERS, THESE PRECIOUS POLL LEADS. In discussing the many problems with the "Hillary is inevitable" meme, Jon Chait decides to bring out the heavy artillery by reminding us who was ahead in national polls at a comparable time in the last cycle:
But national surveys, especially this early in the process, tend to sweep up the lightly held opinions of voters who are paying scant attention to the race, and, as such, they are little more than name-recognition contests. At this point in 2003, after all, polls consistently showed Joe Lieberman leading the Democratic pack. This, of course, merely reflected the fact that he had been the vice presidential nominee three years earlier. When Democratic voters started really paying attention to the race -- and to Lieberman -- his numbers started going south and never stopped.
Yes, I think it's safe to say that, at least for candidates with Clinton's name recognition, national polls mean almost nothing at this stage of the race. Chait is also persuasive in pointing out that Clinton faces a tightrope act similar to McCain: she's alienated the Democratic base, but it's not clear that her pandering to moderates has been successful (and her wrong bet on the war is going to be an even more serious problem in the Democratic primary.) I also agree with Matt that her support is likely to be proved shallow when her numbers drop. Like Chait, I wouldn't quite say that Hillary's campaign in DOA. I don't think she will win, but then one of the few times I've fully agreed with Mickey Kaus is when he declared John Kerry's campaign a write-off, so my predictions should probably be lightly regarded (and should Mickey and I ever agree on anything again, you definitely want to bet the other way.) But, at the very least, a Clinton win is highly evitable.