Today's polling news bodes well for Sen. Hillary Clinton on the Democratic side and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani on the Republican. But recent news in each camp could have long-term negative side effects if either makes it into the general election.
The latest Gallup/USA Today Poll shows that Clinton "is backed by 50 percent of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents, compared with 22 percent for Illinois Sen. Barack Obama and 15 percent for former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards."
With a lead in the range of 30 points against her next-closest rival, Clinton is sitting pretty in the national polls. But her negatives are still dangerously high—at 45 percent in the same Gallup Poll.
Her husband's response to criticism of her performance in last week's Democratic candidate debate did little to help decrease voter worries about Clinton. Normally an asset to her campaign, former President Bill Clinton clobbered her Democratic rivals, saying they "swift boat"-ed her, a reference to 2004 presidential campaign ads that "questioned John Kerry's patriotism and campaign commercials in 2002 that suggested Sen. Max Cleland of Georgia was soft on terrorism."
That opened the door for Sen. Barack Obama to claim he was "stunned" by the comparison and for Sen. Chris Dodd to call the comparison "outrageous." The former president may as well have given hand grenades to her opponents with pins pulled.
And Giuliani's camp is preening over news he won support from coveted Christian conservative leader Pat Robertson.
Robertson says he's overlooking Giuliani's pro-choice stance because he believes the mayor would appoint staunchly conservative federal judges if he became president. Robertson's support may help drive some religious conservatives to the polls during the primary season (extremists from both parties represent a disproportionate percentage of primary voters). But that same endorsement could turn off moderate voters in the general election. Plus, Robertson's influence among religious conservatives is fading as a newer, hipper generation takes control of the national pulpit.
Pat Robertson, you will recall, blamed the country for stirring up God's wrath and causing, in part, the 9/11 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington.
CNN quoted Robertson as saying in September 2001, "We have sinned against Almighty God, at the highest level of our government, we've stuck our finger in your eye.... The Supreme Court has insulted you over and over again, Lord. They've taken your Bible away from the schools. They've forbidden little children to pray. They've taken the knowledge of God as best they can, and organizations have come into court to take the knowledge of God out of the public square of America."
In that same Gallup Poll cited above, Giuliani's lead over his Republican rivals continues to hover around the 34 percent mark, with Sen. John McCain moving into second place (18 percent) for the first time in five months.