- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 30, 2003

The significant rise in the number of Americans who name Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton as the woman they most admire adds new fuel to hopes — or fears — that she will enter the presidential race.

“This only helps to feed the speculation that Hillary might enter the race,” Democratic campaign consultant Gale Kaufman said of the new Gallup poll showing, for the sixth time in the last seven years, that Mrs. Clinton is tops among the nation’s most-admired women.

In the same poll, released this week, Americans named President Bush as the man they most admire in the world.

But while Mr. Bush has slipped by 10 percentage points from Gallup’s December 2001 poll, Mrs. Clinton gained considerable ground in the poll from two years ago. The percentage of those naming the New York Democrat as their first or second choice has doubled, from 8 percent to 16 percent.

In the latest Gallup survey, 29 percent of the 1,000 adults polled made Mr. Bush their first or second choice for most-admired man, down from 39 percent in 2001.

Frank Newport, Gallup’s editor in chief, explained the drop by noting that the 2001 poll was taken when the attention of the nation and the world was focused on Mr. Bush — right after September 11, his declaration of war on terrorism and the U.S. military action against al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan.

But Mrs. Kaufman, the Democratic consultant, said that Mr. Bush’s poll numbers “are curious, since the latest poll was taken right after the capture of Saddam Hussein.”

“There is reason for the Bush re-elect people to be concerned,” she said.

Still, Mr. Bush’s closest competitors for the most-admired title were Secretary of State Colin L. Powell and Pope John Paul II, with 4 percent each, followed by former President Bill Clinton with 3 percent, and former South African President Nelson Mandela with 2 percent.

Mr. Newport said name recognition is an important factor in assessing the implications, if any, of the poll. It asks respondents to name someone “off the top of their head rather than from a prepared list” of notable men and women, he said.

Also, “the smaller number spontaneously mentioning Mr. Bush this year reflects the difference between his job-approval rating of 90 percent in the fall of 2001 and the 63 percent in our final poll for this year,” Mr. Newport said.

In the latest poll, 16 percent of respondents named Mrs. Clinton first or second as the woman they most admired, followed by TV talk-show host Oprah Winfrey with 7 percent and first lady Laura Bush with 6 percent.

Why is Mrs. Clinton being mentioned nearly three times more often than the first lady? Mrs. Clinton has been in the news this year, publishing a best-selling memoir, “Living History,” and making a Thanksgiving trip to visit U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. By contrast, said Mr. Newport, “Laura Bush has had a low-keyed first ladyship — not nearly as visible as other first ladies.”

Some Clinton watchers say the point is obvious: Mrs. Bush isn’t running for anything and Mrs. Clinton is — and not necessarily just for re-election to the Senate. Many Republicans relish the thought of Mrs. Clinton as the Democratic nominee next year, pointing to her high negative ratings in other polls.

In October, a Gallup survey found that 51 percent of respondents rated Mrs. Clinton favorably and 44 percent unfavorably — a very high negative number in the campaign world.

But Mrs. Clinton also wins more than twice the approval for president among Democrats as any of the party’s declared candidates. A Dec. 4-8 Quinnipiac University poll found that 43 percent of Democrats nationwide prefer Mrs. Clinton, compared to 14 percent for former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, who leads the field of declared candidates.

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