The conventional wisdom is that Hillary Clinton has a lock on the Democratic nomination in 2008 but can't win the general election. Both claims are open to doubt: A new poll shows Hillary slipping in her battle for the nomination and voter turnout data underscores how serious a chance she has of winning the election if she gets nominated.
The latest Fox News poll shows her slipping among likely Democratic primary voters from an unbeatable 43 percent in mid March to a more pedestrian 32 percent in late August.
The key movement seems to be from Hillary to undecided. Why are Democrats turning away from Hillary? The war in Iraq has a lot to do with it, but so does the drumbeat of publicity saying that she can't be elected. Democratic voters, this year, are determined to win; a pragmatism unusual in the party has taken hold. They're clearly worried that Hillary might not be a winner.
But take this all with a grain of salt. The last time a Democratic frontrunner failed to win his party's nomination was 1972. Even frontrunners who slip usually make a comeback, as with Walter Mondale in 1984, Al Gore in 2000 and John Kerry in '04. So, while her road won't be as easy as it once seemed, Hillary is still more likely than not to win the nomination.
She still controls most of the money and has the backing of the ex-officio delegates who she has bought and paid for by distributing more than $50 million in donations to their campaigns. And her main opponents - Gore, Kerry, John Edwards and Joe Biden - have one thing in common: They've all run for president and lost. (The newcomers are having trouble getting traction in a field so crowded with well-known has-beens.)
And, if she wins the nomination, she'll likely win in November.
The Republican Party and President Bush are sinking rapidly in popularity, despite an uptick after last month's aborted terror attack. And Hillary still has a secret weapon: The likely increase in voter turnout among single women, which her candidacy is certain to attract.
Half of all women in the United States are single, and they voted for Kerry in 2004 by a margin of 25 points. But their turnout was only 59 percent, about 10 points below married white men or women. Even so, they dramatically increased their share of turnout, to 22 percent (from 19 percent in 2000). They were the only major demographic group to increase their vote share.
If Hillary runs, she will bring out single women in unheard of numbers. Likely, she will increase their turnout by about 6 to 7 million votes.
Those extra votes will be hard to offset. White men and married white women are already pretty well maxed out in their turnout. There were not a lot of Bush voters who stayed home in 2004. And very few Kerry voters will back the Republican in 2008.
Hillary will also significantly increase black turnout (African-Americans like her much more than they liked Kerry or Gore) and will also attract more Hispanics to the polls (she got almost 80 percent of New York Puerto Ricans in her first race for Senate).
Hillary will not so much win more support from the electorate that turned out in 2004 as she will expand the electorate in ways that the Republicans cannot hope to match.