Between The Lines

generic 2008 presidential race graphic - White House and logos/symbols for Democrats and Republicans AP / CBS

According to the new CBS News/New York Times poll, a large majority of registered voters right now believe a Democrat will be moving into the Oval Office in January 2009. The poll finds a high level of satisfaction among Democrats about their prospects and their candidates — and a corresponding level of unrest among Republicans. You can read more here.

Like most polls, there's a common-sense aspect to these numbers. In the midst of an unpopular war and six years of Republican rule, it's not surprising that voters would be looking at other options. And, like every poll you'll see in the next six months, there's a caveat — we have a long way to go in this race. Still, there are some other interesting nuggets:

  • Purity Over Electability: Picking a winner may yet be an important consideration for party activists, but Republicans and Democrats who described themselves as primary voters say issues top the list of concerns at the moment. Asked which is more important, 73 percent of Republicans and 66 percent of Democrats said they care more about a candidate agreeing with them on most issues than perceptions they can win in November 2008.

  • Purple People: Whether they vote blue or red, majorities in both parties say they have close friends on the other side. Even those who describe themselves as "strongly" partisan socialize with the opposition. More "strong" Republicans — 66 percent — have close friends in the other party, but 58 percent of "strong" Democrats do, too.

  • Not Just A Bill: As much talk as we hear about Hillary Clinton's "Bill" problem, 74 percent of Democratic registered voters have a favorable opinion of the former president. Expect to see plenty of him during the primary fight, especially in front of core Democratic audiences.

  • That's Ageist!: Voters generally see the presidency as a young person's game. The 50s are seen as the prime decade of life to be leader of the free world. No names were associated with this question, but it does support other polls which have indicated voters are wary of older candidates. Those who believe the age of 70 or above is the best age for a president: 0 percent (John McCain, the oldest current candidate, would enter the White House at age 72 if elected).

    Not Playing Chicken: New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson has one of the most impressive resumes in the Democratic presidential field: statehouse experience, a former Cabinet member, former ambassador to the United Nations and so on. Yesterday, he added another notch to his record when he signed a bill banning cock-fighting in his state.

    Richardson's brave stance makes Louisiana the only state in which watching two male chickens fight, often to the death, is considered a legal activity. And Richardson had a warning for any would-be-outlaws in his state. "Don't do it, because now we have a law and we're going to enforce it," the governor said, according to The Associated Press.

    Watch out cockfighters: There's a new sheriff in town.

    Old School: Texas Rep. Ron Paul threw his hat into the Republican presidential contest yesterday, not with a trendy Internet announcement, but during a guest appearance on C-SPAN. Thanks in great part to Lyndon Johnson, Texas allows candidates to run for higher office while also seeking re-election — just in case that whole presidential thing doesn't work out. The libertarian-Republican is one of a handful within his own party to have voted against the Iraq War.

    Talk About A Frontrunner Strategy: In 2000, John McCain's "Straight Talk Express" was the embodiment of an insurgent campaign, and the "maverick" reveled in sticking his finger in the eyes of Republican kingmakers. This time around the presidential track, McCain is in many ways seen as the front-runner and the establishment candidate.

    Perhaps the front-runner mentality expands to more than the campaign.

    McCain's Web site is offering supporters a chance to match bracketology wits with the senator for the upcoming NCAA basketball tournament. You too can make your picks (for fun) in the field of 64 teams that will start on the road to the Final Four this week

    Senator McCain's bracket is there for all to see (registration required), and we can unveil his final four choices; Kansas, Florida, Ohio State and North Carolina. No special interest pandering here but all have one thing in common: They are the four top-seeded teams in the tournament. Wise picks or wishfully hoping this is the year of the favorite?

    Editor's Note: Pure Horserace is a daily update of political news as interpreted by the political observers at CBSNews.com. Click here to sign up for the e-mail version, coming soon to an in-box near you.
    • Vaughn Ververs

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