Saturday, January 20, 2007

Which poll d'ya read?

Hillary Clinton (R-NY) jumps into the race and she's being anointed the frontrunner. ABC reports that in a hypothetical (remember that word) primary, Clinton bests Barack Obama (D-IL) 41 percent to 17 percent, with John Edwards third at 12 percent. Fair enough.

But then there's Newsweek's poll with this little gem. In those hypothetical races, McCain edges Clinton by a point, but loses to Obama by 2 percent and Edwards by 5 points. Contests where Rudy Giuliani is the hypothetical Republic nominee turn out pretty much the same way.

Such early polls are so close to meaningless that you need a powerful magnifying glass to tell the difference, but if results continue this way, it will be bad news for Hillary. She doesn't inspire many people with her oratory or her ideas; electability has to be her catchword.

A caution, however: as the candidates say, the only poll that counts is the one on election day. Like all cliches, that's true. Campaigns, especially presidential campaigns, depend on a lot more than polls. And the early stages, in particular, depend on organizational ability and retail politics more than on oratory or positions on particular issues. The race hasn't even entered the starting gate--we're only seeing the post parade.

It's going to get interesting. Stay tuned.

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