Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton has consolidated her place as the front-runner in the contest for the Democratic presidential nomination, outpacing her main rivals in fundraising in the most recent quarter and widening her lead in a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.
For the first time, Clinton is now drawing support from a majority in the Democratic primary – and has opened up a gaping 33 percentage-point lead over Sen. Barack Obama. Her popularity, the poll suggests, is being driven by her strength on key issues and a growing perception that she would best represent change.
The new numbers come on the heels of an aggressive push by Clinton to dominate the political landscape, first by unveiling her health care proposal, then by appearing on all five Sunday news shows on the same day – all while her husband, former President Bill Clinton, went on tour to promote a new book.
Tuesday, her campaign announced that they had topped Obama for the first time in a fundraising period, taking in $22 million in the past three months in funds that can be used for the primary campaign to Obama’s $19 million. When all funds raised in the period were included, Clinton raised a total of $27 million in the quarter, while Obama took in $20 million. While Obama topped her performance in each of the first two fundraising periods this year, the two are now virtually even in the amount they have raised for the primaries, with Obama bringing in roughly $75 million for the nominating contests and Clinton about $72.5 million.
Even with the avalanche of publicity the Clintons have received, the Post/ABC poll suggests that there is more than name recognition at work.
Among Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents, 53 percent support Clinton, compared with 20 percent for Obama and 13 percent for former Sen. John Edwards.
And despite her rivals’ efforts to portray her as too polarizing to win the general election, a clear majority, 57 percent, of those surveyed said Clinton is the Democratic candidate with the best chance in November 2008. The percentage saying Clinton has the best shot at winning the White House is up 14 points since June. By contrast, 20 percent think Edwards is most electable; 16 percent think Obama is, numbers that represent a huge blow to the “electablity” argument her rivals have sought to use against her.
One of the central claims Obama’s campaign makes is that he is uniquely suited to lower partisan tensions in Washington, but in this poll, more see Clinton as best able to reduce partisanship.
On major issues, Democrats are far more likely to trust her than her main competitors – 52 percent trust her most on Iraq, compared with 22 percent who trust Obama most on the war; 17 percent trust Edwards most. And on health care, 66 percent trust her most to handle the issue, compared with 15 percent for Obama and 14 percent for Edwards.
The poll’s margin of error for the Democratic sample is plus or minus four percentage points.