TO RODHAM OR...

TO RODHAM OR NOT RODHAM. I've very much bought into the John-McCain-is-unbeatable interpretation of contemporary American politics, so I'm glad to see this poll assuring me that my predictive abilities are absolute shite and that Hillary would pound the guy. CNN's reportage of their own poll, however, must be among the worst analyses I've ever seen:

If presidential elections were held today, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton would likely have a comfortable edge over Sen. John McCain, but take away her maiden name and McCain has a better shot of landing in the Oval Office.

So say the results of a CNN poll released Friday by Opinion Research Corp., which asked 506 adult Americans whom they preferred among potential 2008 presidential candidates. The margin of error for the survey is plus or minus 4.5 percent.

Asked if they preferred Hillary Rodham Clinton to McCain, respondents gave the Democratic New York senator and former first lady a 51 percent to 44 percent advantage over the Republican Senator from Arizona.

Remove "Rodham" and McCain had a 1 percentage point advantage, 48 percent to 47 percent.

The results fall within the sample's margin of error, so there is a "good chance, but not a statistical certainty" that Clinton's maiden name would help her in a matchup against McCain, said Keating Holland, CNN's polling director.

Meanwhile, if you include "Rodham" against Giuliani, Hillary's lead shrinks, indicating that what looks like a meaningless statistical artifact is, in fact, a meaningless statistical artifact. And talk about burying the lede: CNN is so fascinated by what the implications of a career woman keeping her name that they forget to plug her staggering lead and majority support over McCain. The poll's margin of error is high and its number of respondents low, so I'm not placing too much faith in it, but it certainly indicates that McCain is not immune to the anti-Republican moment we're in.

--Ezra Klein

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