While recent national polls show Clinton matching up well against every potential Republican competitor, the picture looks very different in Republican and swing states. Says a purple-state Congressman who is nervous about holding onto his seat if Clinton is the nominee: "She certainly will get Republicans riled up. They will not only go out and vote against her--they'll stop off at their neighbors' house along the way and drag them to the polls."
A late-October Quinnipiac University survey underscored this point. Nationally, it showed Clinton being edged out by former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, 45% to 43%, within the margin of error. In red states, however, she ran behind him, 49% to 40%, and she trailed, 47% to 41%, in the purple ones. By comparison, Illinois Senator Barack Obama beat Giuliani by a single percentage point (43% to 42%) nationally but held that same margin in the purple states and came within 6 points (45% to 39%) in the red ones.
TNR's Issac Chotiner responds by saying, "So, in essence, Clinton runs up her margins on the coasts and lags everywhere else. Eeek. You could argue that Obama will decline in purple and red states as he gets better known; at the same time, he'll probably rise in blue states. Still, this is not a heartening picture..."
Actually, the situation seems a bit more complicated. I looked at the Quinnipiac results mentioned in the Time article and compared them to the Bush-Kerry margin in the same Blue, Red, and Purple states. Here are the results:
Blue 44-56 38-50
Purple 50-50 47-41
Red 59-41 49-40
In Blue states (those that Kerry won by more than 5 points), Clinton runs about as well as Kerry did--both winning by 12 points. In the Purple states (states decided by a margin of less than 5 points), Clinton does significantly worse than Kerry. Instead of a 50-50 split, she loses by 6 points. On the other hand, Giuliani seems to have real trouble in the Red states (those that Bush won by more than 5 points). Bush won them by 18 points, but Giuliani is only winning them by 9 points.
For Clinton, she needs to shore up her support in the battleground states. On the other hand, Giuliani has some problems with his Republican base. On the whole, Clinton's problem is a bigger one. Giuliani can run worse than Bush in the Red states since they will likely go Republican anyway, albeit by reduced margins. But if Clinton runs even a few points behind Kerry in the Purple states, she could end up losing the 68 electoral votes that he won there in 2004.