Republicans worry that Barack Obama will be a more formidable opponent than Hillary Clinton. The latest Fox poll suggests that is so, but that John McCain starts from a very competitive position him. The bad news for Clinton: she is the only one in negative territory on the favorable/unfavorable ratings (she is at 45-51% while Obama is at 54-33% and McCain is statistically no different at 52-33%). McCain would, according to the poll, beat Clinton by 3 points and lose to Obama by 3 points, but those numbers are all within the margin of error.
So the bottom line: Clinton has higher negatives, but McCain is competitive against both. Moreover, McCain gets a higher percentage of his party’s voters than either of his opponents get of their voters, so perhaps the GOP is more enthusiastic about their near-nominee, even before a nudge from the New York Times (or a ham-handed attack from Howard Dean), than the media coverage might suggest.
And a final thought on the New York Times story today: Who says McCain’s coziness with the media didn’t pay off? Aside from the fact he literally is raising money on the Times, the vast majority of the mainstream media, not to mention both liberal and conservative bloggers, took his side or at least were highly critical of the Times. Isn’t that the opposite of what the talk show hosts are saying (i.e. it never pays to cultivate the media)? I doubt any other Republican would have been as effective or adept at beating back a potentially very damaging story in less than 24 hours. (The news cycle pace still stuns me.) One of the other GOP contenders — you know, the mayor — certainly was not.