UPDATED POLL MEMO: HILLARY IS THE DEMOCRATS' BEST SHOT

People are always asking, can Hillary Clinton win the presidency?

Of course she can. In many of the polls out today, she is already winning.

She has national ratings that are higher than the winning presidential candidates of the last two decades had on Election Day and beats or statistically ties the leading Republican presidential candidates in most recent polls. Today’s ABC/Washington Post poll shows Hillary Clinton leading John McCain by 5 points (50% to 45%), and she is the only Democrat who leads both John McCain and Rudy Giuliani. Yesterday’s Newsweek poll shows her competitive with McCain and Giuliani, while the last Newsweek poll had Hillary leading McCain by as much as 7 points.

The people who have come to know Hillary the best love her the most. Hillary won a huge victory in New York, with 67 percent of the vote, after getting 83 percent of the vote in the Democratic primary. In addition to her strong base in the city, she won over the highly Republican areas in upstate NY, where she has been strong since 2000, and went up 17 points this election in the Republican-leaning NYC suburbs. New Yorkers reaffirmed their support of her in her reelection, and she won 37 of the counties won by George Bush in the last election.

James Carville and I wrote a piece in 2006 for the Washington Post about how and why Hillary Clinton can win. Every one of the arguments we cited there are even more true today. Hillary Clinton has surged in the polls since the election this November. And women constitute a huge "X factor" in this upcoming election. More than 54 percent of the general election voters will be women, and many -- particularly those in the younger generation -- believe it is about time this country had its first woman president. And they believe Hillary is the right choice.

Even before announcing her presidential campaign, Hillary has already proved wrong all the pundits who say that people already know her and that voters won't change their minds. In the last year, the percentage of people who have a favorable impression of Hillary Clinton in the CBS poll rose 34 percent (from 32 to 43, the highest of any Democratic contender). In today’s ABC/Washington Post poll, she has the highest favorable rating of any Democrat tested (54 percent). Hardcore Republicans don't like Hillary for the simple reason that they know she can win, and if she does, she will change the policies of their hero, George W. Bush. She has a strong appeal among both Democrats and independents, the two groups it takes to win.

Hillary Clinton is leading in the Democratic primary ballot among every key audience – men, women, Democrat-leaning independents, mainline Democrats, liberal Democrats, moderate Democrats, blacks and whites. For example, Hillary has the support of 53% of African-Americans (compared with 27% for her closest competitor, Barack Obama) and 49% of women (compared with 18% for the second-place contender).

Of course, new polls are coming out every day showing one candidate up or another down, and up against these polls from national news sources, there are plenty of other polls out there with less positive numbers -- like a Diageo poll or a Rasmussen poll -- but the major news organization polls, taken before anyone announced, all showed her moving up in favorability and support, moving up in ways many pundits said was simply not possible.

Some of the commentators look at the ratings of people who have not yet been in the crossfire, and say they might have a better chance. Recent history shows the opposite. The last two Democratic presidential candidates started out with high favorable ratings and ended up on Election Day (and today) far more polarizing and disliked nationally (see the CBS poll below). Hillary is the one potential nominee who has been fully tested, with the Republicans spending nearly $70 million in the last decade to try to defeat her. She is not just strong, but the strongest Democrat in the field. Hillary is the only one able to match or beat the Republicans after years of their partisan attacks on her.

Now that Hillary has closed the gap nationally with the Republicans, the pundits will shift the argument to ask how she will do in Iowa and New Hampshire. Some polls show her down in those states, others, like a recent ARG poll, show her up. The polls in these states are famous for turning around many times as voters get to know the candidates up close. While some candidates have been in Iowa and New Hampshire for years, running as permanent presidential candidates, Hillary has been working hard as a senator for New York. Yesterday she announced that she is forming an exploratory committee and announced that she will start a conversation with the people in those states and across America. To them, she is famous but really unknown -- and she will be meeting the primary voters in the same person-to-person way that she met the voters of New York, where she became the state's highest Democratic vote-getter in their recent primary.

Can Hillary Clinton get the votes of Democrats in the Democratic primaries? Of course she can.

Can Hillary Clinton beat the Republicans and bring the country together for change? Of course she can. Recent polls show this is already happening.

Here are a few key findings based on a snapshot of recent polls. There may be others, but these are from major organizations and all from the last 60 days:

· Hillary was named the "Most Admired Woman" for the fifth year in a row, eleven of the last fourteen years, and has been first or second in that list in every year since 1993.1

· Hillary Clinton is the only Democrat who beats John McCain and Rudy Giuliani in the latest ABC/Washington Post poll.2

o Hillary Clinton 50
John McCain 45

o Hillary Clinton 49
Rudy Giuliani 47

o She beats candidates like Mitt Romney with overwhelming margins.3,4

· In the latest CBS News poll, Hillary has the highest favorability of any 2008 contender (Democrat or Republican) with 43 percent, up from 32 percent in September. John Edwards' favorability is 34 percent, Al Gore's is 32 percent, Barack Obama's is 28 percent, John Kerry's is 22 percent, Rudy Giuliani's is 41 percent and John McCain's is 39 percent.5

· Hillary is the candidate Democrats like best, with a favorability rating of 79 percent, compared with 65 percent for John Edwards and 54 percent for Barack Obama.6

· Hillary is the candidate Democrats increasingly believe is their best chance to regain the White House. Sixty percent agree that "if Hillary Clinton is the Democratic nominee, she'll have as good a chance as any Democratic nominee to be elected President," up from 46 percent in August 2006.7

· Hillary leads the Democratic primary horse race with 41 percent, compared with 17 percent for Barack Obama, 11 percent for John Edwards, 10 percent for Al Gore and 8 percent for John Kerry. 2

· Hillary's Democratic primary support is climbing while others are stalled or falling. Clinton leads with 37 percent (up from 28 percent in October) while Obama is at 15 percent (down from 17 percent in October), Edwards is at 9 percent (down from 13 percent in October) and Kerry is at 7 percent (down from 12 percent in October).8

· The latest Gallup poll conducted before her exploratory committee was formed has Clinton ahead of Barack Obama 53/39, and leading the field with 29 percent, with Edwards having announced and showing a 5-point gain (from 8 percent in December to 13 percent in January).9

· She is too new to the primary states for reliable poll numbers, but at least one American Research Group poll shows her ahead in Iowa and New Hampshire. Hillary Clinton leads in 13 of the 17 states where they have conducted polls: California, Connecticut, Florida, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina and Vermont.10

Sources:

1. "Most Admired Woman," Gallup, December 27, 2006

2. “Clinton Leads ’08 Dems; No Bounce for Obama” ABC/Washington Post Poll, January 21, 2007

3. Newsweek Poll, December 17, 2006

4. CNN Poll, December 19, 2006 (PDF)

5. CBS News Poll, January 6, 2007 (PDF)

6. LA Times/Bloomberg Poll, December 13, 2006 (PDF)

7. Cook Political Report/RT Strategies Poll, December 17, 2006 (Word Doc)

8. "Clinton, Giuliani top new CNN Polls," December 11, 2006

9. "Clinton Remains the Front-runner Among Democrats," Gallup, January 18, 2007

10. American Research Group Iowa Poll, December 23, 2006, and ARG New Hampshire Poll, December 27, 2006