For a generic Democrat

Hillary Clinton, John Kerry, and Al Gore all have personal unfavorability scores in the 40s. Let’s run somebody else.

Atrios posts some numbers from a Newsweek poll on the favorable/unfavorable ratings of some leading Democrats:

Hillary 53/42

Dean 33/36

Edwards 49/24

Gore 49/43

Kennedy 43/45

Kerry 49/40

Isn’t it obvious from this that only Edwards from that list ought to be seriously considered as our nominee for ’08? Unfavorables are hard to drive down and easy to drive up. If your candidate starts with unfaves in the 40s, you’ve got a tough row to hoe.

Newsweek also reports that voters want a Democratic rather than a Republican President in ’08 by 50%/31%. But all the trial heats have Hillary and Kerry running behind McCain, and I doubt that the Republicans will cooperate by running Cheney.

It’s true virtually every year that the voters prefer the generic Democrat to the generic Republican. If we got to run “Democrat to be Named Later,” that imaginary candidate would win in a walk. The problem is that we have to run some actual human being, and the Republicans can be counted on to do an excellent job of dirtying him (or her) up.

So our strategy seems to me obvious: run someone as close to “Generic Democrat” as we can find, someone who presents a narrow scattering cross-section for sliming. It looks as if Edwards fits the bill. (The Republicans have already had a shot at making him Mr. Evil Tort Lawyer, without apparent success.) So do Clark and Warner. Hillary, Kerry, and Gore don’t.

So do we want to win, or not?

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact:

6 thoughts on “For a generic Democrat”

  1. Since they're throwing out names of Dems who won't run (Kennedy), can I add Obama to it? Love to know how he scores, especially after reading some tidbits from a recent speech to Emily's List here:
    Of course, for so many reasons, Obama doesn't quite fit into the "generic Democrat" mold. But perhaps he has the je ne sais quoi to break it.
    As might one or two people on the list that people already think they know. Given the right re-introduction, they might be surprised to find they don't know them as well as they thought.

  2. I agree with ccobb. If we're going to nominate someone who has as weak qualifications as Edwards does, we might as well go for Obama. He's such a dynamic personality, at least he won't be boring.

  3. What about Russ Feingold? IMO, he's going to give it a go for President in '08. Perhaps he just doesn't have enough name recognition yet to be included in a poll of those who have run nationally or at least are marred to a former President.

  4. Edwards / Clark or Clark / Edwards? I think Clark has to be on the ticket. Clark / Feingold? Hmmm. Clinton is my senator & I'll vote for her again in that position, but not for prez. There are plenty of policy reasons, but I detest the tred toward political dynasties. Do we really want historians to look back on a 28 year period in which our presidents were named Bush, Clinton, Bush, & Clinton?

  5. Watch out for Mark Warner. He's on the same talent level as Bill Clinton. You'll see.

  6. While your statement that negatives are easy to drive up and hard to take down may be true generally, this does not apply to HRC. For almost fifteen years she has been villified by the far right, including multiple slimey books directed against her. Her negatives are as high as they are ever going to be and will only go down.
    The number that would be more interesting would be her approval ratings in New York State, whose residents have had six years to see the softer and more moderate side of HRC.
    Really the issue is moot. Bill Clinton's endorsement and fundraising support will decide the matter, and the best thing for Democrats to do today is to unite behind her.

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