Quinnipiac’s Polling Institute (with which I have no affiliation, beyond being at the same university) has recently released their “thermometer poll,” which asks respondents to simply indicate how “warm” they are to particular politicians, with 100 being warm and 0 being cold. The mean figures are as follows, with the parenthetical numbers indicating the percent who did not feel they knew enough to judge:
1) Rudolph Giuliani – 64.2. (9)
2) Sen. Barack Obama 58.8 (41)
3) Sen. John McCain 57.7 (12)
4) Condoleezza Rice – 56.1 (7)
5) Bill Clinton – 55.8 (1)
6) Sen. Joseph Lieberman – 52.7 (16)
7) NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg – 51.1 (44)
8) John Edwards – 49.9 (20)
9) Sen. Hillary Clinton – 49 (1)
10) N.M. Gov. Bill Richardson – 47.7 (65)
11) Sen. Joseph Biden 47 (52)
12) Nancy Pelosi 46.9 (34)
13) Gov. Mitt Romney – 45.9 (64)
14) Former VP Al Gore – 44.9 (3)
15) President George Bush – 43.8 (1)
16) Sen. Evan Bayh – 43.3 (75)
17) Newt Gingrich – 42 (15)
18) Sen. Bill Frist – 41.5 (53)
19) Sen. Harry Reid – 41.2 (61)
20) Sen. John Kerry – 39.6 (5)
A number of people have noted Kerry’s position with surprise, though I’m not sure why. We’re just not that into him. It’s a little surprising that more people aren’t with Gore, but if more had seen the best campaign movie ever they might feel differently.
What is not surprising is how highly ranked Obama is. He comes across as genuine, real, and a man of character. I am not with him 100% on the issues, but he’s far closer than anyone else who is a possible in the race. (I would have said McCain was a real challenger, and I was a fan until some of his recent political maneuvering that appears to have abandoned straight talk for pandering.) So, the question is how Obama handles the first real hits to his reputation: whether these are “real” media events (botched jokes, questionable decisions, etc.), or swiftboating of some sort. It’s easy to be popular when people don’t know you, the question is whether he has the shiny shield needed to weather the mud-slinging that has become an integral part of American politics.
Of course Guliani is an interesting counter-example there. People think they know him–mainly because of name recognition–but I suspect that his position there is a bit tenuous. They might not feel the same way about him once they see them in action. And regardless, Guliani and Bloomberg both will probably never be embraced as candidates because of their association with New York City, and their more moderate takes on social issues.
I would like to see a race between McCain and Obama. If McCain can return to his previous levels of integrity, I think we could see a race in which some broad thinkers could engage on the issues and encourage a real public discussion about the future of America, and at least reduce the influence of the spinners. That may be a vain hope, but it’s a hope.