Hillary Clinton: Not Polarizing and Highly Electable

You didn't misread that headline. It is contrary to all current conventional wisdom.

It is also true — supported not only by recent national polling data but by most polls all year long.

According to the latest Oct. 4 Washington Post/ABC News national poll of all voters from all parts of the country, Hillary Clinton's "polarization" rate (i.e., the percentage of people who would "definitely" not vote for her, no matter what — also called the "rejection rate") is 41 percent. That is statistically identical (within the margin of error) to Barack Obama (39 percent) and John Edwards (43 percent).

Even in the South, where the same conventional wisdom would predict that Hillary Clinton would be most polarizing, the results are the same dead heat: Edwards (47 percent would "definitely" not vote for him), Clinton (46 percent) and Obama (45 percent).

Now compare the polarization/rejection rate for the three leading Republicans: Rudy Giuliani — 44 percent; John McCain — 45 percent; Fred Thompson — 54 percent; and Mitt Romney — 57 percent.

Funny how you never see the words "polarizing" in front of these male presidential candidates as much as you do in front of the name of the female candidate, Hillary Clinton. Get the drift?

Two of The Washington Post's leading national political reporters, Dan Balz and Jon Cohen, summed up the myth-puncturing conclusion as follows:

"Many Republicans have said that they are eager to run a general election against Hillary Clinton, describing her as a highly polarizing candidate who would unite and energize the opposition. But, as of now, Clinton appears to be no more polarizing than other leading Democratic contenders. Nor is there a potential Republican nominee who appears significantly less polarizing."

Regarding electability, the Post/ABC News poll shows Sen. Clinton defeating the Republican front-runner, Rudy Giuliani, by substantial margins. Among all voters, Clinton is leading Giuliani by eight points — 51 percent to 43. Among those following the race most closely (which presumably would be the case for most voters by Election Day 2008), the margin was of landslide proportions — 18 points: Clinton 58 percent to Giuliani's 40.

Moreover, Sen. Clinton's lead over Giuliani is not just among Democrats. Significantly, she leads among independent voters (48 percent to 44, within the margin of error) and has a substantial lead among women — 57 percent to 39.

So why are so many people so convinced that the above poll results cannot be accurate — even though they reflect the results of other polls taken by other credible polling organizations over most of the last year? The answer is the power of repetition — if a false or misleading assertion is made often enough, it becomes perceived as fact. And the Internet provides the engine of millions of "hits" in the misinformation echo chamber.

Take, for example, the number of Google hits on the words "polarizing" and "electability" when used in the media and in the blogosphere in association with Sen. Clinton — versus the other presidential candidates in both parties:

"Polarizing" Google hits

Hillary Clinton: 1,260,000
[I am not making this number up - try it out]

Rudy Giuliani 3
Mitt Romney 1
Fred Thompson 0
Barack Obama 5
John Edwards 0


"Electability" Google hits

Clinton: 20,200
Obama 202
Edwards 731
Giuliani 669
Thompson 51
McCain 80
Romney 49

So there you have it. The very repetition of these two words as problems associated with Sen. Clinton has led many people to conclude that they must be true — that is, just by virtue of their constant repetition. How circular. And now, in the recurring polling data all year long, we have some good evidence to prove that the conventional wisdom on Hillary as more "polarizing" than any other candidate, and as unelectable, is just plain wrong.

Some Democrats may choose, as I have, to support Sen. Clinton as the most qualified and experienced candidate. Or they may choose Sens. Joseph Biden (D-Del.), Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) or Barack Obama (D-Ill.); or former Sen. John Edwards (D-N.C.) or New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson (D) — all of whom are highly qualified and capable and could make superb presidents. This is certainly the strongest field of Democratic presidential candidates in my memory, and I'm proud to be a Democrat to have so many strong choices.

There are lots of important issues facing our country — Iraq, the war on terror, energy independence, healthcare, the need for an experienced president in a post-Sept. 11 world. Democrats should look forward to these capable Democratic candidates debating these great issues and making their decision.

But one reason should not be a factor — that there is a significant difference among any of the Democrats regarding "polarization" and "electability." Indeed, as of now in the polls, Sen. Clinton appears stronger in the general election against any Republican. Facts are facts.

Unlike George Bush, we Democrats use facts to reach conclusions — not conclusions in search of evidence to support them.