The AP's Ron Fournier examines Democratic worries about having Hillary Clinton at the top of the ticket in 2008:
Looking past the presidential nomination fight, Democratic leaders quietly fret that Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton at the top of their 2008 ticket could hurt candidates at the bottom.
They say the former first lady may be too polarizing for much of the country. She could jeopardize the party's standing with independent voters and give Republicans who otherwise might stay home on Election Day a reason to vote, they worry.
In more than 40 interviews, Democratic candidates, consultants and party chairs from every region pointed to internal polls that give Clinton strikingly high unfavorable ratings in places with key congressional and state races.
Not to worry, say Clinton pollster Mark Penn, who makes the implausible claim that her unfavorable numbers will go down during the general election campaign:
The Clinton campaign points to those figures to make a case for her electability in a constant stream of e-mails, letters and phone calls to jittery Democrats across the country. A key to their strategy is to give Clinton's candidacy a sense of inevitability despite her negative ratings, which aides insist will go down.
"All the negatives on her are out," said Clinton's pollster and strategist Mark Penn. "There is a phenomena with Hillary, because she is the front-runner and because she's been battling Republicans for so long, her unfavorability (rating) looks higher than what they will eventually be after the nomination and through the general election."
However, Fournier points out that candidates' unfavorables almost never go down:
What the Clinton campaign doesn't say is that her edge over potential Republican candidates is much smaller than it should be, given the wide lead the Democratic Party holds over the GOP in generic polling.
The problem is her political baggage: A whopping 49 percent of the public says they have an unfavorable view of Clinton compared to 47 percent who say they hold her in high regard, according to a Gallup Poll survey Aug. 3-5.
Her negative ratings are higher than those of her husband, former President Clinton, former President George H.W. Bush and 2004 Democratic nominee John Kerry at the end of their campaigns.
A candidate's unfavorability scores almost always climb during campaigns. If the pattern holds, Clinton has a historically high hurdle to overcome.
It is true that Democrats who currently say they have an unfavorable view of Hillary may rally to her side. But on the other hand, many other people may be reminded why they didn't like her in the first place. Remember, she's had unfavorables in the 40s since 1994 (with the exception of the period in the late 1990s in which Bill Clinton's scandals made her a more sympathetic figure). Why would we expect the public to view her more favorably after she's endlessly savaged by both her primary opponents and Republicans?
As I wrote before, she is a weak candidate. She could be carried to victory by a favorable political environment, but it's hard to imagine her being anything but a drag on her party. (See my previous posts on Hillary for more.)