Well-liked, not well-known

Obama ThinkingQuinnipiac’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.

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  1. Posted 11/28/2006 at 4:52 pm | Permalink

    I think Kerry is damaged goods; I don’t expect to see him getting very far in 2008. Dems were never exactly wildly enthusiastic about him to begin with: He was sort of everybody’s second choice. Surprised Lieberman did so well. Maybe it’s those bassett hound cheeks. Obama’s got charisma but he’s going to be a hard sell. If he survives the primary he might have a chance with a real heavy as a running-mate like Al Gore.

    My pet prediction for 2008: a cross-party ticket — say, McCain-Lieberman.

  2. Posted 11/29/2006 at 9:00 am | Permalink

    I like the way your mind works.

  3. Posted 11/29/2006 at 11:52 pm | Permalink

    “If McCain can return to his previous levels of integrity” ?!

    Is this like returning to full health? Has McCain been inflicted with some kind of bug that has temporarily sapped his integrity?

    I think he’s shown his true colors. The best you might hope for is a return to his previous ability to portray integrity.

  4. alex
    Posted 11/29/2006 at 11:56 pm | Permalink

    Scott: I agree that a damaged reputation is difficult to recover from, but I like to think the best of people and that he has simply given into his/the dark side temporarily.

  5. Posted 11/30/2006 at 5:44 am | Permalink

    That’s definitely a more charitable way to look at it, and these guys do work in a pretty corrosive environment. I believe he’d be a huge improvement over the current occupant.

  6. Posted 12/2/2006 at 5:12 pm | Permalink

    McCain is a liar. Long ago I used to trust him, but the “Catholic Voter Alert” mini-scandal quashed that.

    See Crossfire transcript….

    MATALIN: Well, Ken, if that’s not character assassination I don’t know what is. But here’s what’s worse: The candidacy of John McCain rests on this. I will never lie to you. His campaign said they had nothing to do with that ad. We pick up The New York Times today: Oh, campaign manager Rick Davis says, yes, we put out that ad. When asked, “Well, why did you say you weren’t putting out that ad?” and he says, because the press secretary didn’t know.

  7. Posted 12/5/2006 at 9:14 am | Permalink

    Great post, thank you. I’ve written about a possible Bloomberg ’08 candidacy on my blog at http://www.minor-ripper.blogspot.com. I think with his money and smarts–along with the country’s yearning for another alternative to the two party system, it might just work for him

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