Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Who's Polarizing Whom?

The Presidential polls keep telling us Hillary Clinton and Rudy Giuliani are “polarizing” voters. Even as they widen their leads by more than 2-1, the two front runners are beset by sizable minorities who swear never to vote for them under any circumstances.

Today new Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg numbers show the former First Lady “viewed unfavorably by 44% of respondents” and about one-third of GOP voters saying “they would consider supporting a third-party candidate in the general election if the party nominee supported abortion and gay rights.”

But to what extent are Clinton and Giuliani doing the polarizing or taking the heat from an electorate divided by George W. Bush, who ran for President as a “uniter?” Not since Richard Nixon, who promised to “bring us together” in 1968, have Americans been so polarized by an unpopular war and a secretive Administration that considered itself above the law.

After Nixon, voters turned to the bland but ineffectual Jimmy Carter to escape a Presidency that had given them a taste of what oppressive power could do. What are their choices now?

If they find Clinton and Giuliani too “polarizing,” which more neutral candidate will they favor?

Mitt Romney, who is on all sides of every issue and can’t keep straight the difference between Barack Obama and Osama bin Laden?

John Edwards, the guy with the sincere smile every girl would bring home to meet her parents who keeps talking a little too much about the virtues of honesty?

Fred Thompson, who can do folksy and comfortable but can’t seem to recall how he feels about anything specific?

Mike Huckabee, the smooth-talking preacher, who might just be selling snake oil on social issues and a placebo for foreign policy?

Or Barack Obama, the nice young man with stars in his eyes who may not have his feet firmly enough on the ground?

With time starting to run out, American voters are going to have to get past the anger built up over the Bush years and make some choices about how well-defined a President they want to clean up the social and political wreckage.

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