Do voters in the home states of some of the potential 2008 White House contenders think their favorite sons or daughters would make a good president?
The CBS News exit poll put that question to voters in selected states on Election Day, and the results include good news for some of those thinking about becoming candidates and troubling news for others.
Among the top tier of 2008 wannabes, Sens. Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and John McCain got a thumbs-up from home state voters, while Rudolph Giuliani got a mild rebuke.
Obama, the freshman Democrat, received the highest positive rating of any potential candidate. Sixty-four percent of all Illinois voters said he'd make a good president, while just 29 percent said he would not. Among Democrats, he got a positive rating from 81 percent.
Clinton fared next best, with 57 percent of all voters in her home state of New York saying she'd make a good president, including 80 percent of Democrats.
By 51 percent to 47 percent, New Yorkers said Giuliani would not be a good president. But he did get a 76 percent positive rating from Republicans in his state, the highest in the GOP field.
In keeping with the general mood of the electorate on Nov. 7, the Democratic contenders fared much better than their GOP counterparts. None of the eight Republicans included in the questioning (McCain, Giuliani, Nebraska Sen. Chuck Hagel, Tennessee Sen. Bill Frist, Virginia Sen. George Allen, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and New York Gov. George Pataki) were rated as good presidential timber by a majority of voters in their home states. And only McCain had a plurality that said he'd make a good president.
Home state appeal can be a critical indicator in a presidential race, given that only three times since 1804 has a president been elected without carrying his home state. (For those keeping score, they were James Polk in 1844, Woodrow Wilson in 1916 and Richard Nixon in 1968. Al Gore also won the popular vote in 2000, while losing his home state of Tennessee.)
But how important are these findings so early in the campaign, with most of the candidates still undeclared?
"The useful thing about this exercise is that citizens from the home state presumably know more about the candidate than most other Americans this early in the race," said David R. Jones, an associate professor of political science at Baruch College, City University of New York.
Jones says the key indicator may be whether "your home state is a state that a candidate from your party would normally expect to win in a presidential race."
Thus, Giuliani, with nearly 50 percent saying he'd be a good president in solidly Democratic New York, appears to be in less trouble than fellow Republicans from more GOP-friendly states.
"Hagel, Frist, Allen and Gingrich clearly fail the test," Jones says. "They all come from states that like Republican presidential candidates, but voters in their own state don't like them."
While among the Democrats, "Obama does slightly better than Hillary in a state that is less Democratic leaning, so that may bode well for him."
The other Democrats included in the exit polling were New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, who was seen as a good potential president by 50 percent of voters in his home state; and Sen. Russ Feingold of Wisconsin, who got a positive rating from just 35 percent in his home state. Feingold has since announced he would not make a run for president.
At the bottom of the barrel in home-state appeal were Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry and New York Gov. George Pataki. Just 25 percent of voters in Kerry's state said the 2004 Democratic presidential candidate would make a good president, while 71 percent said he would not.
The worst rating of all went to Pataki. Only 15 percent of New Yorkers said the Republican would be a good president, while 82 percent said he would not.
By Joel Roberts