Clinton Gaining Momentum in Head-to-Heads. Time to Panic Yet?

According to Rasmussen‘s latest head-to-head results, it’s time for Republicans to start getting worried (survey conducted October 8-9)…

  • Hillary Clinton 48%
  • Rudy Giuliani 41%
  • Hillary Clinton 52%
  • Fred Thompson 37%
Usual caveats: it’s early, campaigns haven’t gotten their messages out to the general election audience, normal people don’t really make up their minds until late, etc. However, the counter-caveat to keep in mind is that Senator Clinton hasn’t done anything dramatically different in her campaign that’s different from any of the Republican frontrunners. The Republicans need to put some thought into why they’re not breaking through, and adapt as quickly as possible.
Republicans may want to try drawing some lessons from the history of Monday Night Football. In the 1970s and early 1980s, Monday Night Football was a dominant force in the TV ratings. Over time it declined. In 2000, ABC executives tried to recapture their past glory by adding comedian/talk-show host Dennis Miller to the broadcast, a move consciously intended to generate some personality-driven controversy they hoped would generate the high ratings that controversial broadcaster Howard Cosell had helped generate in the past.
It didn’t work, though it wasn’t entirely Miller’s fault. The real problem was that the sports-media landscape had changed since MNF‘s zenith. Winning the ratings battle in 1970s meant being the biggest sports broadcast at a time when very little national TV sports coverage was available. By 2000, with a proliferation of cable sports networks making various games from various sports available to viewers almost every night of the year (and also the weird rise of pro wrestling, which draws huge numbers of viewers from the football demographic), it was simply not possible for any non-championship sports broadcast to grab the share of public attention that MNF had in its early days.
The hope that Fred Thompson would transform the Presidential race expressed in some Republican circles earlier this year was the equivalent of ABC executives hoping that Dennis Miller would transform Monday Night Football. (One guess as who takes the role of Howard Cosell in this analogy). The problem for the Republicans right now is not so much that their candidates are fatally flawed, but that they are not succeeding at breaking through into a diverse and cluttered media environment. Grabbing a commanding share of media attention is much more difficult than in past election cycles and conventional means of political messaging just aren’t going to connect with same number of people as they have in the past. The person who really becomes the Reagan for the next generation will be the one who figures out what the political equivalent is to moving the marquee NFL game to Sunday and introducing the flex-schedule. (Does Newt Gingrich, via his American Solutions program, have a leg up on this for 2012, perhaps?).
One last note on the Rasmussen results: they also conducted a recent poll on impressions that Democrat voters have about their candidates. The results support the analysis I offered last week of Barack Obama’s stall…
40% of Democratic voters see Obama as politically liberal while only 29% hold that view of Clinton. Fifty-one percent (51%) see Clinton as politically moderate while only 39% hold that view of Obama.
These figures reflect quite a change from a month ago. For Clinton, the 29% who consider her politically liberal is down four points from 33% a month ago. For Obama, the 40% who consider him liberal is up nine from September.
Senator Obama has established himself as just-another-liberal, not a unique position to hold in a Democratic field, no longer a particularly exciting alternative to Hillary Clinton or anyone else and, most importantly, unable to create the momentum he would need to overcome the Clinton machine.

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16 years ago

For some time I have been thinking that Sen. Clinton’s candidacy reminds me of the Reagan candidacy of 1980.
To his opponents, a Reagan victory was unthinkable; within his own party, he was unstoppable.
Today Bill Katz of Powerline expressed similar thoughts.
Republicans who prefer Hillary because they think she will be “easier to beat” are living in a fool’s paradise. If she wins the nomination (and I am convinced that she will) it will be nearly impossible to stop her.

16 years ago

Brassband, you’re being a downer.

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