Big Trouble for GOP Candidates in '08
The bad news I'm talking about today comes in a USAToday/Gallup poll that I found through the Hotline Blog. It's three days old, but I haven't seen any major hay being made out of the results. And the results are ugly for Republicans, as you can see below.
The Gallup poll asked a simple question: "If Your Party Nominated A Generally Well-Qualified Candidate For WH '08 Who Was ___, Would You Vote For That Person?
As a market researcher myself, I would have interested in seeing party-line breakdowns for the purposes of primary battles--but you can't get everything you want. Even so, the results are deeply instructive. And while they may be bad for societal progress, they're also bad for Republican chances.
Catholic 95% 4%
Black 94 5
Jewish 92 7
A woman 88 11
Hispanic 87 12
Mormon 72 24
Married for third time 67 30
72 years old 57 42
A homosexual 55 43
An atheist 45 53
Now, let's take a real good look at this for a second--and see what it means for each candidate.
John McCain: Everybody is talking about McCain's perfidy and the Bullshit Express; his presence on the gang of 14 and his strong support of escalating the Iraqi Occupation; his "maverick" status or lack thereof; his pandering to the religious right and whether Dobson will or won't make up and play nice with him.
What far too few people are talking about is what will really do in McCain if nothing else: a full 42% say that they will not vote for the man simply on account of his age alone.
What's even more shocking is that the negatives against a 72-year-old president are as EQUALLY as strong as the negatives against a HOMOSEXUAL.
Let me repeat that: according to the poll, 72 years old = homosexual. Nobody in their right mind would think that a gay man or a lesbian could become president today in America. Yet conventional wisdom says that a 72-year-old McCain can be elected president. This is the sleeper issue in McCain's presidential run, bar none.
Rudy Giuliani: Everybody talks about his social liberalism; his stance on gay marriage and abortion; whether he was actually that good a mayor; whether America really wants a mayor as president; whether 9/11 and its various ghosts can still sway that many voters.
And yes, his marriages are a big deal--but few are talking about them as if they were the BIGGEST deal. And they are. A full 30% will not support a thrice-divorced man as presidential nominee. Period. And I would be willing to bet that the vast majority of respondents who state that as a negatie criterion are Republican social conservatives. That alone makes him almost unelectable (I know, it's a bad word--but I'm gonna use it anyway) in a GOP primary--and I don't really see how he wins a general election, either.
To paraphrase what we say about DLC Democrats: offer the people a choice between a Democrat and a Democrat-lite (but a secret corporatist shill), they'll pick the Democrat every time.
Mitt Romney: Well, there's no denying what his biggest issue is--and it's not his flip-flopping on abortion or gay marriage (though those will be his undoing anyway). As everyone has been saying for some time now, his Mormonism is still his biggest obstacle. A full 24% of Americans say that they just won't vote for a Mormon.
No major commentary is necessary here, except to say that it's pretty hard to reach 50% of the electorate when you give your opponent a 24-point headstart from the beginning of the race. He could still pull it out--but he'd be really hard-pressed to do so.
Finally, we have Hillary vs. Obama. Everybody talks about how Obama's race will play against him, and talk about it as if it were a bigger issue than Hillary's gender. And honestly, no one should read too much into the results of the poll in this regard: when even politically unaware Americans think of a woman president, Hillary comes to mind; when they think of a black president, Obama usually comes to mind (and maybe Jesse Jackson). Thus, those who have a negative opinion of Hillary might respond negatively about a woman president in the poll--even though they might vote for a different woman president if given the choice.
Meanwhile, American voters have a habit of telling pollsters that they will vote for an African-American--and then go vote their racial prejudice in the privacy of the booth.
Even so, however, if we take the poll at face value, a female candidate starts at a six point disadvantage behind a black candidate--and statisically equivalent to a Hispanic president, which is rather surprising given that Hispanics are the GOP xenophobic target-du-jour.
Even so, NONE of the Democratic frontrunner candidates in the field have anything CLOSE to the sorts of simply inherent personal negative attributes that the GOP field does. No divorces. No religious difficulties. No age issues. We can certainly argue that society should be free of such prejudices--but it isn't. And we'll certainly take what we can get, since such prejudices usually work against us, rather than for us.
At any rate, this is BIG trouble for the GOP. Their top candidates start with huge obstacles in their way--in addition to the nearly insurmountable obstacles created by Iraq, George Bush's personal identification with the GOP brand, Hurricane Katrina, economic malfeasance and generally bad government.
McCain's age is almost equivalent to homosexuality as a negative. Giuliani's divorces are enough to kill his candidacy with one third of the American electorate. And Romney's religion kills him with one fourth of the electorate.
Meanwhile, Hillary's gender isn't doing her favors--and may even be a bigger obstacle to her than Obama's skin color to him.
These are dark omens indeed for the GOP field, and for corporatist warmongers the world over.