Poll majority say they'd be likely to vote for Clinton
By Susan Page, USA TODAY
Fri May 27, 9:22 AM ET

For the first time, a majority of Americans say they are likely to vote for Hillary Rodham Clinton if she runs for president in 2008, according to a USA TODAY/CNN/Gallup Poll taken Friday through Sunday.

The survey shows that the New York senator and former first lady has broadened her support nationwide over the past two years, though she still provokes powerful feelings from those who oppose her.

Clinton commands as much strong support - but more strong opposition - as George W. Bush did in a Newsweek poll in November 1998, two years before the 2000 election. She is in slightly stronger position than then-vice president Al Gore, the eventual 2000 Democratic nominee, was in 1998.

"Over time, Clinton fatigue has dissipated ... and people are looking back on the Clinton years more favorably," says Andrew Kohut, director of the non-partisan Pew Research Center. In a Pew poll released this month, Kohut called former president Bill Clinton and the senator "comeback kids" because of their rising ratings.

"This may also reflect that she has been recasting her image as a more moderate person," he says.

Spokesmen for Sen. Clinton declined to discuss the survey. "She's just focused on working and doing her job for New York," says Anne Lewis, a veteran Democratic operative working at Hillpac, Clinton's political action committee.

Clinton has been leading the field of Democratic presidential contenders for the 2008 election, still more than three years away. She is running for a second Senate term next year and has dodged questions about whether she'll make a White House bid.

In the poll, 29% were "very likely" to vote for Clinton for president if she runs in 2008; 24% were "somewhat likely." Seven percent were "not very likely" and 39% were "not at all likely" to vote for her.

Her strong support has risen by 8 percentage points, and her strong opposition has dropped by 5 points since the same question was asked in June 2003.

In the new survey, more than seven in 10 Americans said they would be likely to vote for an unspecified woman for president in 2008 if she were running. One in five said they wouldn't be likely to vote for her.

Karen White, political director of the liberal group Emily's List, says the findings underscore growing acceptance of women as candidates, even for president. "People realize that women reach across party lines and are problem-solvers, and they want to see more of that in public life," she says.

No woman has been nominated for national office by one of the two major parties since Geraldine Ferraro was Walter Mondale's running mate in 1984.

Voters under 30 were by far the most likely to say they would support a woman for president. More than half of them said they were "very likely" to vote for a woman, compared with less than one-third of those 50 and older.

Among those who were very or somewhat likely to vote for Clinton for president, there were:

A big gender gap. Six of 10 women but 45% of men were likely to support her.

Significant differences by age. Two of three voters under 30 were likely to support her, compared with fewer than half of those 50 and older.

Strongest support from those with the lowest income. Sixty-three percent of those with annual household incomes of $20,000 or less were likely to support her, compared with 49% of those with incomes of $75,000 or higher.

And big swings by ideology. An overwhelming 80% of liberals were likely to support her, compared with 58% of moderates and 33% of conservatives.

Among those surveyed, 54% called Clinton a liberal, 30% a moderate and 9% a conservative.

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Personally, I'd be shocked. But if the Republicans put up a hard-right conservative (ie, DeLay or the like) she's probably got a legit shot.

God I hope one of the party's can put a genuine moderate candidate into the general election.