Terry McAuliffe was just on “Hardball,” with guest host Al Sharpton. Not surprisingly, he played down today’s fundraising news and touted all sorts of polls that have Hillary Clinton leading the Democratic field – claiming that she is ahead in “35 of 36” primary and caucus states. He also played it as if it were a given fact that she is the most formidable potential nominee, flatly stating that, “Every poll has her as the best candidate in the general election.”
Now, to quibble for a minute…
First, undoubtedly Hillary is ahead in the vast majority of primary and caucus states right now. But while there have been polls here and there that give her the lead in the early states of Iowa (including a new one today, I’m told) and South Carolina, it is a reach to say she’s the undisputed leader in either state. John Edwards has consistently led Iowa polls for a year, and a poll just two weeks ago gave Barack Obama a 9-point edge in South Carolina.
And McAuliffe’s general election claim is even flimsier. Just consider the fairly exhaustive Newsweek poll released last week. Pitted against Rudy Giuliani, Hillary was indeed the strongest Democrat (she led by 7 points, Obama by 5 and Edwards by 2). But against John McCain, Mitt Romney and Fred Thompson, Hillary was the weakest of the three. (For instance, she topped Thompson by 11 points, compared with 16 for Edwards and 14 for Obama.)
Broadly speaking, every Democrat would be a strong candidate against whomever the GOP nominates in ’08. But it’s still fair to ask whether Hillary might fare a few points worse than her fellow Democrats.