Clintons best Obama in polls


Word on the street is that the Obama people are alienated from the Clinton people. And the president’s minions are pushing the line that there are actually only two “Clinton people” left — Bill and Hillary. The rest are said by White House spinners to be headed — like former John Edwards loyalists — for better and safer places. But the numbers don’t lie like spin does. The Clintons, both of them, now have better poll numbers than does Mr. Obama.

Ladies first. The most recent poll I could find on Hillary was taken Jan. 22-24 of this year by CNN and Opinion Research Corp. Her favorable was 62 percent, against an unfavorable rating of only 35. In fact, Hillary’s unfavorable in that poll series has consistently been below 40 percent since late in 2008. Mrs. Clinton’s job approval as secretary of State is even better. A Jan. 14-17 CBS News poll gave her a 77 percent approval rating, versus 15 percent disapproval.

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Think these are biased, “liberal” polls? Fox News’s Opinion Dynamics asked job approval questions on Secretary Clinton three times in 2009 (but none yet in 2010). Disapproval of Hillary Clinton in those Roger Ailes-approved polls never exceeded 24 percent.

It gets better. Last August, USA Today and Gallup asked a national sample whether they would “like to see Hillary Clinton run for president again or not?” A majority said yes, including 75 percent of Democrats. The moment that poll was published was probably the genesis of the spin that “the Clintons are fading.” Heck, the Obama people probably fear that Hillary and Bill might start thinking about pulling a Bobby Kennedy to “save America” by challenging an incumbent Democrat president.

Even ol’ Bill is resuscitating his numbers. I couldn’t find a 2010 poll. The most recent 2009 poll was conducted by CNN and Opinion Research in mid-October 2009. Bill earned a 64 percent favorable rating while pounding his unfavorable rating down to 33 percent, well below his negatives even a year before. Since that 2009 poll was conducted, Democrats have seen the former president selflessly helping with Haitian relief efforts and Republicans have seen him chumming with the last two Grand Ole Party’s occupants of the White House. Can anyone doubt that Bill may be on the precipice of a 70 percent favorable rating while driving his negative below 30?

The Clintons aren’t down to an army of two. They are legion. At least that’s what the polls say.

Rather than engaging in so much denigration and disparagement of the former first couple, Obama strategists might want to start trying to figure out what is driving the amazing Clinton turnaround. 

Hillary is, for the most part, acting with resolute will on national-security matters. Compared with Obama, her spine definitely seems steelier. This gives her a shot at peeling off support from some Republicans and conservative independents who see Obama as weak on defense issues. According to Gallup polls taken in 2010, 44 to 47 percent of Americans disapprove of how the president is handling foreign affairs. If it were not for Obama weighing her down, Hillary’s 15 percent disapproval as secretary of State might approach zero. 

It’s also worth pondering that Bill and Hillary are still triangulating and playing the game of bipartisanship more skillfully than Obama’s team. Does anyone doubt that Bill Clinton would have recovered more adroitly from Scott Brown’s win and the setback on healthcare reform? Clinton would have actually dealt with congressional Republicans leaders earnestly — behind closed doors, rather than in the phony televised public meetings that just made both sides look bad. Clinton wouldn’t have responded with base-pleasing controversies like gays in the military. The Clintons knew disaster recovery and response. Can Obama get the hang of it?

Hill has been a Republican pollster since 1984. This cycle he is polling for gubernatorial campaigns in four states.