It’s a very long way to the next presidential election, or even the first primaries, so I haven’t been blogging a lot about the various bumps and ruffles in the polls. But TPM Café points to an interesting Gallup poll that shows Obama and Clinton in a dead heat, both when paired directly and when put in the pack with all the other candidates1.
This goes against every poll we’ve seen so far, all of which have put Hillary in the lead, and I see it as a hopeful sign. I am not a Clinton hater — I respect her work in the Senate — but I have a variety of reasons to think she’s the least compelling of the leading Dems. She’s the most conservative, for one thing, with a history of DLC-style triangulation, and I think that was a great strategy back in the early nineties. With the Bush disaster, though, I think we have a real opening for a new progressivism in America, and I would hate to see that frittered away on compromise and caution. I am also uncomfortable with the big-money aspect of her campaign and her ties to all the people who have kept Democrats losing for years. Her refusal to admit she was wrong on her Iraq vote is disheartening, and her political hedging around the issue is depressing to watch. And I am simply bothered by the idea of having two families rule America for 28 years, which is what we’d get if Hillary were to win in ’08 and ’12.
That said, any of the Democratic front-runners, including non-candidate Gore, would be just fine with me as president. I appreciate that Edwards has apologized for his vote on the war and called the War on Terror a nonsensical idea, I like that his talk on healthcare is serious, and I appreciate his emphasis on poverty issues. Obama is impressive in his whole political approach, he made his name as an anti-poverty activist, and he had the good sense to be against the war from the start — plus he has the advantage of beating every GOP candidate in early polls. Hillary is bright, capable, immensely knowledgeable about healthcare, and a sophisticated political fighter. And Al Gore has been right about so many things for so long that I wish we could just install him as president and beg him to fix everything that’s broken.
So if Hillary wins the nomination, I can live with that. But I want this to be a race. This is an extraordinarily rich Democratic field, and I would hate to see it go to the default candidate without a struggle. I certainly don’t want to see the party tear itself apart, but a vigorous debate and real passion on the ground would be great.
1.The matchups that include all the declared Dem candidates also include Al Gore, so an interesting question is where Gore’s support goes if he doesn’t run. Recent polls gave Hillary a 7-point bump and Barack getting just 4 points from a Gorectomy. But then, that poll also gives Clinton a 12-point lead.