In a hypothetical match-up between Hillary Clinton and Rudy Giuliani, bloc after bloc of traditionally Republican voters break for Clinton:
She wins the South.
She polls evenly with voters who attend church at least once a week.
She splits families with a household income above $100,000.
She loses rural voters and men — but only by a narrow margin.
All are constituencies Republicans have dominated for decades; George W. Bush won each by double-digit margins.
The findings from The Pew Research Center for the People & the Press remain preliminary, considering even the primaries are still two months off.
But Pew questioned an unusually large number of voters to try to paint the most accurate picture possible of where the presidential contest stands today.
Should the race continue down its current trajectory, the poll finds Clinton defeating Giuliani by eight percentage points.
Other recent polls, however, have placed Giuliani ahead of Clinton in a head-to-head race. But those polls predict Clinton would beat Fred Thompson, John McCain or Mitt Romney.
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And Barack Obama would defeat Giuliani — though narrowly — according to at least four polls taken in October.
In fact, Democrats hold a marked advantage over Republicans in the eyes of voters.
In July 2004, the Democratic Party had a slight lead as the party “better able to manage the federal government” and as the party that is “more honest and ethical.”
Today Democrats lead both categories by double-digit margins.
By even larger margins, Democrats are seen as the party “more concerned about people like me” (by 29 percentage points) and the party best able to bring about “needed change” (by 22 percentage points).
Other polling has also showed that for the first time in decades Americans now see the two parties as equally qualified to face down national security threats — erasing the “security advantage” Republicans have long relied on.
Republican insiders dismiss the findings as “largely irrelevant” because they come so far before Election Day.
“I don’t take comfort in any of the numbers that are out there right now, but I also don’t put much stock in them because it is so premature,” said Rep. Adam Putnam (Fla.), the number-three Republican in the House.
Pew’s pollsters agree that as well as Democrats are positioned today, much could change in the next year.
“It’s very early in the race, and we would all be shocked if the South went for Clinton,” said Michael Dimock, Pew’s associate director of research.
One factor the poll “reflects is the lack of focus among Republicans right now,” he said.
That lack of focus is visible when partisans are asked to rate their own political camp.
Only 36 percent of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents say the GOP “does an excellent or good job” of “standing up for traditional GOP positions” on issues like reducing the size of government, cutting taxes, and promoting conservative social issues.
That’s a decline of 25 points since July 2004. In fact, it’s the lowest Republican rating for the GOP since Pew began tracking the issue in 2000.
If it turns out to be a subway race between Giuliani and Clinton, Pew further found that two-thirds of Republicans say their vote for the Republican would be more accurately described as a vote “against Clinton” and “not for Giuliani.”
Yet, as Dimock notes, “Republican enthusiasm and engaement could really turn and that’s the big unknown at this point.”
Democrats do not have a significantly better view of their party than Republicans do of the GOP, but Democrats have long been skeptical of their tribe.
Republicans, however, have become “increasingly negative,” as Pew puts it, about their party.
And they are falling behind in the party loyalty stakes, Pew interviews of some 20,000 Americans this year have found.
About a third of voters call themselves Democrats and a quarter call themselves Republicans — but when independents’ leanings are added to the mix, roughly half of Americans lean Democratic and only 36 percent lean Republican.
That Democratic advantage in party identity is larger than at any time since tracking began in 1990.
Bush’s poor approval ratings are a factor.
His approval rating has dropped from around 50 percent in October 2003 to about 30 percent today.
That is roughly equal to Jimmy Carter's ratings at the low point of the 1979 energy crisis and Richard Nixon's in the worst days of Watergate.
Additionally, the unpopular war in Iraq, the lack of a clear Republican front-runner and dismay among some conservatives about the authenticity of leading GOP candidates all play a role in the Democrats’ powerfully fortified position today.
Pew conducted its survey of 2,007 adults from Oct. 17 to Oct. 23. The sample size was nearly twice that of a normal poll.