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Inside the Beltway: The persistence of Eastwood

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The Hollywood hero who boosted Republican morale during the 2012 presidential election campaign remains an all-American favorite. Clint Eastwood is the nation's second-favorite movie star, his popularity eclipsed only by Denzel Washington. So says a Harris Poll released Wednesday.

"Denzel Washington played rogue spy and a hero pilot with a few problems in 2012, the latter role earning him his sixth Academy Award nomination. Clint Eastwood had an interesting year and spoke to a now infamous empty chair, but remains at No. 2, and all around nice guy Tom Hanks rises one spot to the No. 3 position," the poll says, noting that the responses were not prompted. Johnny Depp is in fourth place, followed by Brad Pitt, the ever-admired John Wayne, George Clooney, Harrison Ford, Meryl Streep and Matt Damon.

Mr. Eastwood, incidentally, is also the favorite movie star among men, Republicans, conservatives and Southerners.

CLINTON IN REVIEW

So how'd she do? A brief review of headlines based on Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton's lengthy appearance before the U.S. Senate regarding the Benghazi terrorist attack:

"Hillary on the hotseat" (Daily Beast)

"Hillary handles hardball." (Fox News)

"Hillary Clinton's fiery moment" (ABC News)

"Hillary Clinton storms the Hill (The Washington Post)

"Hillary the Invincible" (National Journal)

"Run, Hillary, run" (The Huffington Post)

"Flat out bull [expletive]" (Rush Limbaugh)

CLINTON RULES BIDEN

White House spokesman Jay Carney on Wednesday refused to speculate on a 2016 presidential matchup before the aforementioned Mrs. Clinton and Vice President Joseph R. Biden. Pollsters, however, have numbers.

"Of two potential Democratic successors to Barack Obama, one has a clear advantage in personal popularity: Hillary Clinton, whose favorability rating exceeds Joe Biden's by a hefty 19 percentage points," says ABC News analyst Greg Holyk, citing an ABC News/Washington Post poll revealing that 67 percent of Americans view Mrs. Clinton favorably and 48 percent feel the same about Mr. Biden.

Democrats give the former first lady a 91 percent approval rating — and a 78 percent to Mr. Biden. Republicans offer a grudging 37 percent approval to Mr. Clinton and 20 percent to the vice president.

She's got some advantages. Mrs. Clinton is a high-profile entity who's been away from the contentious fray of Washington politics, at least until now. The oft-boisterous vice president remains at the epicenter and will, in fact, journey to Virginia this week to talk up gun control issues with Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine.

"Let the handicapping begin," says Mr. Holyk.

ROMNEY EMERGES

Critics made much out of the fact that a low-key Mitt Romney and his wife, Ann, did not attend President Obama's second inauguration Monday. But wait. The couple are coming to the nation's capital for an honorary luncheon Friday that features a patriotic invitation.

"Two major Romney campaign fundraisers, Virginia philanthropist Catherine Reynolds and hotel magnate Bill Marriott Jr., have invited guests to wear business attire to a luncheon at Washington's J.W. Marriott Hotel. Reynolds's office confirmed that the Romneys would be on hand. The event's invitation is topped by a close-crop of an American flag painted on newsprint," says Jim O'Sullivan, White House correspondent for National Journal.

CHRISTIE-FIED

The drumbeat continues. While he may vex conservatives convinced he's quite cozy with the Obama White House, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie continues to be a Republican hybrid who draws support from a prism of demographics in his home state.

Three-fourths of all New Jersey voters approve of the job Mr. Christie is doing, says a Quinnipiac University poll released Wednesday. He is now tied with New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo as having the highest job approval of any governor in states surveyed by the academic pollster.

Mr. Christie's approval is 93 percent among Republicans, 56 percent among Democrats and 78 percent among independents.

Sixty-eight percent overall say he also deserves re-election while 79 percent say he "was right" to criticize congressional Republicans for delaying a vote on Superstorm Sandy relief. Seven of 10 Republicans agree with that.

"'Give 'em hell, Chris,' say New Jersey voters about Gov. Christopher Christie's attack on House Speaker John Boehner and House Republicans when they delayed the vote," observes poll director Maurice Carroll. "Overwhelming support for their Jersey guy gov from every group in every corner of the state translates into a sky-high approval rating."

Mr. Christie's re-election, he adds, "doesn't look like a problem."

POLL DU JOUR

• 92 percent of global investors say it's "unlikely" that the United States will default on its debt.

• 58 percent predict only "modest changes" in legislation that would simplify the U.S. tax code.

• 56 percent "embrace" House Republicans' view that an increase in the debt ceiling should be matched by spending reductions.

• 52 percent predict only modest changes in spending plans on Capitol Hill.

• 47 percent say recurring fiscal showdowns among lawmakers discourage them from investing in U.S. financial markets.

• 36 percent say U.S. government finances present the "greatest risk" to the world economy.

• 29 percent cite Europe's sovereign debt crisis; 15 percent cite the slowing Chinese economy.

Source: A Bloomberg survey of 921 investors, analysts and traders who subscribe to the news service, conducted Jan. 17

Happy talk, glum predictions to jharper@washingtontimes.com.

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