An Ill Wind for Hillary?

Washington Matters

An Ill Wind for Hillary?

Hillary Clinton could be watching her slim hopes of upsetting Barack Obama slip away. Pennsylvania polls are all over the map, but only a few of the most closely watched ones show her with the double-digit lead she would need on Tuesday to make Democrats seriously consider turning their backs on Obama. But the news for Clinton is far worse than that.

While it's always dangerous to count a Clinton out, she is facing an increasingly hostile voter sentiment: A majority of Democrats nationally and in Pennsylvania see Obama as more electable, more honest and more likable than Clinton. All of those numbers should be troubling to Clinton, but one stands out above all the others: In a Washington Post/ABC News poll published today, Obama now has a 2-1 lead over Clinton -- 62%-31% -- among Democrats when it comes to who has the best chance of defeating Republican John McCain in November. In Pennsylvania, Obama has a lead on the same question, but not quite as commanding.

The fact that Clinton maintains a five-point lead over Obama on the question of who would be the strongest leader -- a quality she has made the central theme of her campaign -- is cold comfort. Democrats clearly believe now that there are many more factors and more important attributes that will get their nominee to the White House.

Remember that because Clinton can't win the pledged delegate rate, she has to bank on impressions. The nominee will ultimately be decided by superdelegates. And Clinton's endgame for months has always been to persuade them that she is ultimately more electable than Obama, regardless of whether he is ahead in pledged delegates or not. At this stage, she finds herself in a tailspin that would seem difficult to pull out of -- the tougher she is on Obama, the less electable and likable she appears to Democrats.