Clinton, Edwards and Rove's "fatal flaw"

Is Rove wrong about the math? And is it unseemly for Edwards to cash in?

Published August 23, 2007 11:53AM (EDT)

Two follow-ups on Karl Rove's repeated claim that Hillary Clinton's high negatives make her "fatally flawed" as a presidential candidate:

Gallup says Rove may be wrong

In a polling analysis posted Wednesday, Gallup's Frank Newport, Jeffrey Jones and Joseph Carroll say Clinton's "unfavorable" ratings aren't that different from the worst that faced the last two men elected president. In the most recent Gallup poll, 48 percent of the respondents said they had an "unfavorable" view of Hillary Clinton. At the beginning of 2004 -- which is to say 11 months before he won reelection -- George W. Bush's "unfavorable" rating was 47 percent. And in April 1992 -- about six months before he was first elected president -- Bill Clinton faced a 49 percent "unfavorable" rating.

More relevant still, Gallup says: "Hillary Clinton's own favorable ratings have shown dramatic shifts since she entered national public life in 1992."

John Edwards is cashing in

In a fundraising e-mail sent to supporters, Edwards advisor Joe Trippi says that Karl Rove's attacks on Clinton mean he's really worried about ... Edwards. "Rove and the Republicans want our opponents to win," Trippi writes, "because they know John will be the strongest candidate in the general election."

There's certainly some history here. As the Los Angeles Times noted last week, Rove and his people went hard after John Kerry early on during the 2004 campaign in the hope that Democrats would rally around Kerry rather than Edwards, the candidate they thought would pose a tougher challenge for Bush in the general election.

Is it possible that Rove is using the reverse-psychology tactic all over again? Sure. But if he is, wouldn't he be gunning for Barack Obama rather than Edwards? Well, maybe. Obama holds a substantial lead over Edwards in national polls of Democrats -- they both trail Clinton, of course -- but the most recent Quinnipiac University poll has Edwards performing slightly better than Obama in hypothetical head-to-head matchups with Rudy Giuliani, John McCain and Fred Thompson.

Still, with Edwards trailing Clinton by nearly 30 percentage points in the national polls and struggling just about everywhere that isn't Iowa, would Rove really feel the need to go after him?

And even if he did, isn't there something a little unseemly in Edwards' use of Rove's attacks on Clinton as a way to raise money for himself? There is, but it's also fair to remember this: Clinton herself has used Rove's "obsession" with her as a selling point on the campaign trial. And earlier this month, Clinton campaign manager Patti Solis Doyle used Clinton's "I'm your girl" line about fending off attacks from "the right-wing machine" in a fundraising letter of her own.

By Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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2008 Elections Hillary Rodham Clinton John Edwards Karl Rove War Room