NEGATIVES….Southern California apostate Ezra Klein snags the front (op-ed) page of Southern California’s newspaper of record today with a very nice piece about whether Hillary Clinton is really a uniquely polarizing candidate. It’s true, he says, that her negatives are currently higher than either Edwards’ or Obama’s:
Still, it’s a bit misleading to say “she” is more polarizing. Polarization isn’t a character trait; it’s the outcome of a process. And that process is American politics….As pollster Scott Rasmussen tells me, all the other candidates are going to see their negatives go up during the course of the campaign — and if one of them ultimately wins the race, their negatives will go up even further. “The next president will get to where she is no matter who we elect,” he said. It’s not that the others are necessarily less polarizing than Clinton. It’s that they’re not as polarizing yet.
….The polarizing effects of the process are the larger truth that voters have to grapple with. How will Obama look after nine months of sinister insinuations about his heritage, religious loyalties and racial background? How will John Edwards look after the airwaves are blanketed with sneering ads focusing on his mansion and his record as a trial lawyer and his pricey haircuts? How will Mitt Romney come off after mocking videos of his bald shifts in position play during every commercial break?
Yep, that’s the question. And it’s a real question, not a rhetorical one. How will Obama look after nine months on the receiving end of the right-wing slime machine? A big part of his appeal to Democrats depends on whether you think he’ll come out of the other end of the campaign with the same high negatives as Hillary or whether he’ll manage to stay five or ten points below her. My guess: if Obama gets the nomination, his negatives will never quite reach Hillary’s level, but by November they’ll only be three or four points lower. Personally, I doubt that that will make a difference. Either one of them has what it takes to win.