HereÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s some interesting figures on the popularity of leading presidential candidates as supplied by Dick Morris by way of Fox News.
The first number is a candidateÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s favorable rating within his or her own party. The second is the favorable rating amongst Independents. The third number is the percentage gap between party members and Independents.
A couple things jump out at me. The first is that Al Gore is a long way from getting another shot at the presidency. With only a 54% favorable rating in his own party, he is a serious long shot. Oddly, Kerry (who lost to Bush far worse than did Gore) has a healthy 73% rating among Dems. Perhaps thatÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s because Kerry, while labeled a flip-flopper, has been much more ideologically pure throughout his career than has Gore who has morphed from a New Democrat centrist into a rabble-rousing lefty.
Or maybe itÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s just that Kerry is fresher on peopleÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s minds.
On the Republican side, GiulianiÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s numbers are surprisingly high. Do Republicans know he is solidly left-of-center on social issues? In fact, McCain is more firmly conservative on matters such as abortion, but he still suffers from less than robust Republican support. Nevertheless, with a favorable rating of 57% amongst independents, McCain is still highly electible. But so is Giuliani with a 63% rating from indies.
WhatÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s all this mean. Probably little. ClintonÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s favorability amongst Democrats is most likely buoyed by name-recognition and is likely to dip once the race really gets going. While Giuliani, for all his September 11th heroics, is still a rather unknown commodity to most Americans. I would expect his numbers to shift a lot as he becomes better known.
This is the most wide-open race in several generations with neither a sitting President nor a sitting Vice President running. Interest will be intense. Money will be flowing. And you got to think it helps to have good numbers even this early.