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The Presidential Popularity Contest

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Here’s some interesting figures on the popularity of leading presidential candidates as supplied by Dick Morris by way of Fox News.

The first number is a candidate’s favorable rating within his or her own party. The second is the favorable rating amongst Independents. The third number is the percentage gap between party members and Independents.

Hillary Clinton
Dems: 82%
Inds: 48%
Gap: 34

John Kerry
Dems: 73%
Inds: 40%
Gap: 33

Al Gore
Dems: 54%
Inds: 34%
Gap: 20

Condi Rice
Reps: 66%
Inds: 47%
Gap: 19

Rudy Giuliani
Reps: 81%
Inds: 63%
Gap: 18

John McCain
Reps: 64%
Inds: 57%
Gap: 7

A couple things jump out at me. The first is that Al Gore is a long way from getting another shot at the presidency. With only a 54% favorable rating in his own party, he is a serious long shot. Oddly, Kerry (who lost to Bush far worse than did Gore) has a healthy 73% rating among Dems. Perhaps that’s because Kerry, while labeled a flip-flopper, has been much more ideologically pure throughout his career than has Gore who has morphed from a New Democrat centrist into a rabble-rousing lefty.

Or maybe it’s just that Kerry is fresher on people’s minds.

On the Republican side, Giuliani’s numbers are surprisingly high. Do Republicans know he is solidly left-of-center on social issues? In fact, McCain is more firmly conservative on matters such as abortion, but he still suffers from less than robust Republican support. Nevertheless, with a favorable rating of 57% amongst independents, McCain is still highly electible. But so is Giuliani with a 63% rating from indies.

What’s all this mean. Probably little. Clinton’s favorability amongst Democrats is most likely buoyed by name-recognition and is likely to dip once the race really gets going. While Giuliani, for all his September 11th heroics, is still a rather unknown commodity to most Americans. I would expect his numbers to shift a lot as he becomes better known.

This is the most wide-open race in several generations with neither a sitting President nor a sitting Vice President running. Interest will be intense. Money will be flowing. And you got to think it helps to have good numbers even this early.