- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 4, 2006

Sixty percent of Americans say the nation is ready to send a woman to the White House, according to a Gallup poll released yesterday.

A black president is also a possibility, cited by 58 percent, as was a Jewish commander in chief, cited by 55 percent. The response grew tepid over the prospect of a Hispanic, Asian or Mormon president, with percentages falling to 41 percent and below.

There are limits, though.

“The vast majority of the public believes Americans are not ready for an atheist or gay or lesbian president,” pollster Jeffrey Jones noted, pointing out that with the exception of John F. Kennedy — who was Catholic — all 43 presidents have been affiliated with a Protestant denomination.

“As the country has grown more diverse over the course of its history, and as women and minorities have risen to higher positions of prominence in recent decades, the time for a nonwhite male president may be near,” Mr. Jones added.

There are always hefty possibilities come election time. In past presidential elections, about 200 to 300 hopefuls of many persuasions officially have declared their intention to run, according to the Federal Election Commission (FEC) — though most get weeded out by stringent financial and organizational requirements.

Seven persons already have made their declarations for a 2008 White House run and have met the requirements, FEC spokesman George Smaragdis said yesterday. Another 75 have drafted their intention and are waiting in the wings, he said.

The Gallup survey noted that Americans are much more likely to say they would “personally” vote for a woman or a minority than think the country is ready for a change in presidential choices, suggesting “the broader public is not highly tolerant.”

More Republican respondents say Americans are ready to elect a black, Jew, Hispanic, Asian or Mormon president than Democratic respondents. The poll found, for example, that 67 percent of the Republicans said a black president was a possibility, compared with 49 percent of Democrats.

The Democrats, however, are more convinced than Republicans that a female commander in chief could be in the offing, 64 percent to 54 percent. Mr. Jones attributed this trend to the much publicized possibility of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton’s interest in the White House. Some sources say the New York Democrat will reveal her intentions after the Nov. 7 midterm elections.

More whites than nonwhites say the country is ready to elect a black president, the poll found. Almost two-thirds of white respondents said it was a possibility, compared with 43 percent of nonwhites.

“Nonwhites are generally more pessimistic that a member of a traditional minority group would be elected president in the U.S. at this time,” the poll stated.

The nationwide survey of 1,010 adults was conducted Sept. 21-24 and has a margin of error of plus or minus three percentage points.

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