Obama started his presidency with an especially high favorable rating – 78 percent, according to Gallup – and has come down to earth, now at 56 percent.Mrs. Clinton, his secretary of State, started in January with a 65 percent favorable rating and has edged down to 62 percent. She is “operating in a much less bright spotlight than Obama does,” Gallup notes, as she helps “advance Obama’s foreign policy around the world.”
(These favorability ratings, by the way, are not to be confused with job approval ratings, which go more directly to performance. In the favorability poll, which Gallup has been conducting since 1992, US adults are asked whether they have a “favorable” or “unfavorable” opinion of a person.)
The fact that Obama and Clinton were fierce rivals for the Democratic nomination just last year makes the poll catnip to the media – especially after Clinton’s recent assertions in two TV interviews that she will not run for president again. Might she reconsider, not in 2012, when presumably Obama will be running for reelection, but perhaps for 2016, after what could be Obama’s second term?
She insisted every which way that she will not run again.
“I have absolutely no interest in running for president again. None. None,” she told Cynthia McFadden of ABC News on Tuesday.
That doesn’t mean she couldn’t change her mind around, say, 2014. And she would not be too old. By November 2016, she will have just turned 69 – nine months younger than Ronald Reagan was when he was first elected.
Clinton said, in her interview Monday with Ann Curry of NBC News, that she is “looking forward to retirement at some point.”
Again, one can parse the words: “At some point” could mean anytime, perhaps after serving a term or two as president.
But the real question would be how her favorability rating would hold up if she did go for the top job again. When she was running for the Democratic nomination in 2007 and early 2008, she rarely cracked 50 percent. It was only after she dropped out of the race that she consistently rated about 50.
And it was becoming secretary of state that put her over 60. Her all-time high, 67 percent, came in late December 1998, right after her husband, then-President Bill Clinton, was impeached by the House.
Obama’s favorable rating started out high in January because he was unusually popular even among Republicans. Back in January, 60 percent of Republicans had a favorable opinion of him (compared with 35 percent favorability for Hillary Clinton among Republicans). By early October, Obama was down to 19 percent favorability among Republicans, and Clinton was still at 35.