A neat bit of polling by the Gallup Organization shows that what's hurting Hillary Clinton in the Democratic presidential primaries isn't so much her vote on Iraq or even her flip-flops on the issue. What's undermining her support among liberals is doubts about her electability.
The poll results suggest that many liberals see the primaries as a kind of audition where they assess not only whether they like or agree with a candidate, but whether she can lead them to the White House in 2008. This degree of pragmatism is often seen in Republican circles, but is relatively new on the other side of the aisle.
Gallup asked a national sample of Democratic primary voters from Jan. 5-7 if they'd vote for Hillary if the primary were today. About a third (34 percent) said they definitely would, and about half (52 percent) said they "might consider" voting for her.
The remaining 14 percent said they would "definitely not" support her in the primary.
Then Gallup followed up with the two-thirds of the sample that was not "definitely" voting for Hillary asking why. The No. 1 reason? They felt she couldn't win.
Twenty-nine percent cited the fear that she would lose the general election; 16 percent mentioned her inability to win the nomination as a "major reason" for not voting for her. Many cited both.
(Only 26 percent said the major reason for their lack of support was disagreement on the issues; 11 percent cited personal dislike of her, and 10 percent said they didn't want "another Clinton in the White House.")
This indicates that there is a large "secondary market" for attacks on Sen. Clinton. The primary market for such attacks is, of course, the legions of general-election voters who don't like her and don't think she should be president (including us).
But liberals, while not necessarily embracing the negatives themselves, see them as a cause to doubt her political viability and thus a reason not to vote for her. So attacks on Hillary are not just important among the Hillary-haters they also fuel doubts even among Democratic true-believers.
This, while she faces a double (or triple) squeeze play her charisma squeezed by the first female speaker of the House, Rep. Nancy Pelosi, and her ideological positioning under pressure from Sen. Barack Obama from the center and ex-Sen. John Edwards from the left.
All that could leave her the second choice of too many Democrats especially if they really conclude she can't win.