A MEDIA THAT MEDIATES. Katharine Seelye over at The New York Times' indespensable The Caucus blog -- your daily one-stop shop for colorful vignettes from the field and the latest polls -- nicely fact-checks Karl Rove's latest jab at Hillary Clinton and finds (surprise) that's he's not quite telling the truth:
contrary to what Mr. Rove said on Rush Limbaugh’s radio program, her unfavorable rating is about 10 points lower than where he thought it was and her favorables are higher than her unfavorables, although barely.
His point was this: “There’s nobody who has ever won the presidency who started out in that kind of position.”
In fact, Mrs. Clinton’s husband was in that very position and did win. And Mrs. Clinton’s numbers are better than his were at this point in his first campaign for the White House.
In April 1992, only 26 percent of voters had a favorable view of Bill Clinton, while 40 percent viewed him unfavorably, according to a Times/CBS poll. By June 1992, his favorables had plunged further, so that only 16 percent had a favorable opinion, with 40 percent still unfavorable.
After Mr. Clinton won the nomination and after his convention, his favorable rating began to rise. By October 1992, his ratings had become about even, with 34 percent favorable and 35 percent unfavorable.
I recall making a similar argument last March:
High unfavorable ratings are a product of having a national profile in a divided nation with a pugnacious, mudslinging political culture....
In June 1992, candidate Bill Clinton had an unfavorable rating of 47 percent, according to a Times Mirror survey -- nearly identical to what his wife's is today. He managed to reduce that dramatically come fall (as his wife will need to) and win the election. Similarly, Gore had a 43 percent unfavorable rating in April 1999, according to a Pew Research Center survey, but managed to knock that down to the mid-30s by October 2000 and win the popular vote in November.
None of this means Clinton will win the general, should she win the primary -- it just means that it's not impossible on the grounds Rove was giving, because his facts were wrong. (Shocking that, I know.) Indeed, I'm less worried about her current high negative ratings than I am about the possibility of a Mitt Romney-Mike Huckabee ticket that pits two governors against a Democratic ticket almost certain to be led by a senator, since the historical precendent is that governors fare better than senators in presidential contests. Think about it: in a contest with Clinton, that ticket would erase any advantage she might have in Arkansas and much of the disadvantage Romney might have with the evangelical base in the South (as a Mormon).