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Favorability persists as a Hillary Clinton problem

Dig deep into the new L.A. Times/Bloomberg nationwide poll, and the sources of Hillary Clinton's frustration over Barack Obama eclipsing her -- at least at the moment -- in the Democratic presidential race become obvious.

But one key question -- about a basic voter impression of the two, as well as of Republican John McCain -- seems to offer part of the answer to what clearly puzzles Clinton and her aides.

Overall, the survey (which you can read about here) found Obama edging ahead of Clinton, 48% to 42%, when those who have voted in a Democratic nominating contest or plan to were asked who they support. As we noted earlier today, the results confirm a stunning reversal in position between the two -- not so long ago, Clinton was the runaway leader for the party's nod.

But Clinton, on some key subjects, still appears to be in a stronger position than Obama when all voters polled -- Democrats, Republicans and independents -- were asked a series of issue-related questions that put McCain into the mix.

For instance, Clinton had a nine-percentage point advantage, 43% to 34%, when voters were asked ...

whether they believed she or McCain were best able to handle the economy.

Conversely, Obama ran behind McCain by eight points, 42% to 34%, on this same question -- which spotlights the issue that most concerns voters.

Both Democrats rate better than McCain on grappling with the healthcare issue. But Clinton scores higher than Obama; her advantage over McCain on this topic is 24 percentage points, Obama's is 14 percentage points.

But this appears to be Clinton's Achilles Heel: Favorability.

Significantly more voters have positive views of Obama and McCain than negative opinions. For Obama, the numbers are 61% favorable, 30% unfavorable; for McCain, it's 61% favorable, 26% unfavorable.

For Clinton, it's a much closer call; 51% view her favorably, 42% unfavorably.

McCain's big pluses over both Democrats crop up in matters of foreign policy, which he promotes as his area of expertise and interest.

For instance, on dealing with terrorism, he had a 37-point advantage over Obama and a 27-point margin over Clinton. On handling Iraq, he led Obama by 13 points and Clinton by 16.

On who has the right experience to serve as president, McCain posted a whopping lead of 31 points over Obama. He also ran ahead of Clinton in this category, but by a much lesser amount: 12 points.

These findings help explain McCain's slight edge over each Democrat in a general election match-up; he led Clinton, 46% to 40%, and Obama, 44% to 42%.

In both cases, the margins fall within the poll's error margin of plus-or-minus three precentage points. Still, the results are bound to buoy McCain's camp and bolster the argument he's long been making that he would be the GOP's strongest contender in November.

The survey, though, also identifies a potential dark cloud for him -- he badly trails both Democrats when voters were asked who they think would substantially change how Washington works. Obama's advantage over McCain on this question was 35 percentage points, Clinton's was a less impressive but still hefty 22 points.

You can peruse all of the figures and tables here.

-- Don Frederick 

Comments () | Archives (7)

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HRC sure showed her long self admired experience when stumbled in the debate about Russian premire's name. Another point was that she made such a big fuss about usage of the word denounce and reject. She should go back and learn her English 01. And of course her stand as Why am I always asked to answer first? Is she for real? Does she really believe people should vote for her immaturity? How old is she 61? Well she sure acts like a toddler>>> Is that her ereadiness for presidency on day 1???

All that matters to most voters will be how strong are you on military affairs and the economy. I've seen this time and time again.

We all know that had Carter been successful with the delta force insertion in the Iranian affair, the outcome would have been very different in the 1980 general election. We all know that if the economy hadn't tanked in the second half of Bush senior's Presidency, the 1992 election would have been different. Bill Clinton won his re-election because the economy was humming along nicely, and he wasn't shy about using force. Reagan's strength on the economy was only evident in the latter year of his first term, but more than anything, his standing up to the USSR showed that he was more than strong enough to fight the Communists, and people loved him for that. It exclaimed to people the world over, that America and Democracy was stronger than the USSR and Communism.

Given those two issues (the economy and the military), Barack is going to get buried in the general election should he end up the nominee, regardless of how close the current trends show. With Hillary, she can actually use the vote for the authorization for the use of force in Iraq to show that she is strong on military. If that's not political irony, I don't know what is.

Bush was experienced.

In all the debates I have seen Hillary has come across as remarkably well informed about all national and foreign issues.
To the first poster: have you tried pronouncing Medvedev? She clearly knew a lot about him. Lucky for Obama she always get asked first, because he didn't seem to have a clue.
Also, get a dictionary: denounce and reject have different meanings, and Obama was trying to wriggle out of the question.

gerrrg Hillary use her vote for the Iraq war to show she is strong with the military? Didn't John Kerry try that in 2004? "I voted for the war before I was against it," and guess what happened: HE GOT BURIED.

And there's no way Obama is going to get buried by the Republican machine: Hillary is having a hard time herself attacking him successfully: unsuccessfully attacking his campaign of change and hope, unsuccessfully attacking his speeches saying they were plagiarized (even though she stole her theme/message from Edwards and Obama), the Obama photo, the mailers exposing the truth about her healthcare plan, NOTHING is working for her, which is why Obama is going to be the Repug's worst nightmare, because he carries little to no baggage to be successfully attacked on compared to Hillary. Anyone who would vote for McCain over Obama is an outright fool.

Ok, let's get real. The reason Hillary was annoyed that she seems to be asked most of the questions first in the debates, is she has clearly articulated her plan and position on every issue and that "who first" format allows Obama to play follow the leader. She outlines her plan, he says "I agree with Hillary" and then is allowed to blather on and on so he gets more air time. Kind of like watching that kid in class keep looking over your shoulder during a test, after you've done all the hard work. He clearly states midway thru the debate that he would "reserve the right" to go back into Iraq (or anywhere) if there was reason to believe it posed a threat to the Us. Well, duh?! That's why Hillary voted with John Kerry, Colin Powell, and many Democrats to look further into Iraq under Bush's regime. Also, why has no one mentioned the fact that Obama has voted "present' over 120 times while a senator, when he could have been a leader and taken a stand. We need a leader, not a follower. We need a leader when it is inconvenient, not just when it looks good.

"Given those two issues (the economy and the military), Barack is going to get buried in the general election should he end up the nominee..."

Given those two issues (the economy and the military), Obama will easily defeat McCain in the general. Bush's policies in both areas - in the opinion of the majority of our citizens - have failed miserably, and McCain has committed himself to offering only more of the same. 100 more years in Iraq and an extension of tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans: quite a platform!


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About the Columnist
A veteran foreign and national correspondent, Andrew Malcolm has served on the L.A. Times Editorial Board and was a Pulitzer finalist in 2004. He is the author of 10 nonfiction books and father of four. Read more.
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