POSTED: Tuesday, December 11, 2012 - 1:00am
UPDATED: Wednesday, December 12, 2012 - 11:18am
Washington (CNN) — These are the kind of poll numbers any politician would love to have.
According to a new Politico/George Washington University Battleground poll, 60% of registered voters have a favorable impression of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, with 35% seeing her in an unfavorable light.
The survey, released Monday, comes less than one week after an ABC News/Washington Post poll indicated that 66% of Americans had a favorable view of Clinton. And according to a CNN/ORC International survey conducted last month, following the November election, 67% of the public saw the soon-to-be outgoing secretary of state in a favorable light.
Last week's ABC News/Washington Post poll also indicated that 68% of Americans approved of the job Clinton's doing as the nation's top diplomat. But all these surveys also indicate a partisan divide over Clinton. And while the overall numbers are very nice, it's best to take them with a grain of salt.
"One reason why Hillary Clinton's ratings are high may be that she is not running for office and holds a position that many Americans view as non-partisan. If she becomes an active candidate again, it would not be surprising to see her numbers decline," said CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. "We saw this before with her. When she was first lady, her favorable ratings were often in the high 60's, but they dropped below 50% as soon as serious talk started of her running for the U.S. Senate from New York."
These polls come as the chattering class increasingly speculates about Clinton and whether she'll make a second bid for the White House in 2016.
Clinton has repeatedly said that she intends to retire to private life once her successor as secretary of state is confirmed by the Senate, and she's added that another run for the White House is not in the cards for her.
"Look, I'm flattered. I am honored," she told CNN's Wolf Blitzer this year about calls by other Democrats for her to consider another run in 2016. "That is not in the future for me, but obviously I'm hoping that I'll get to cast my vote for a woman running for president of our country."
If she were to change her mind and make a bid for president in 2016, 57% of those questioned in the ABC/Washington Post poll said they'd back such a run, if Clinton changes her mind and decides to become a presidential candidate again, with 37% saying they'd oppose such a bid.
Meanwhile, a majority of New Yorkers say they would like to see Hillary Clinton run for president again.
According to a Siena College Research Institute survey also released last week, 75% of Empire State voters said they have a favorable impression of Clinton, who represented her adopted home state of New York for eight years in the U.S. Senate. That was Clinton's highest favorable rating ever in a Siena survey.
By a 54%-39% margin, New Yorkers say she should run for president in four years. In 2008, then Sen. Clinton lost an epic Democratic presidential nomination battle to then Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois. Obama nominated Clinton as his secretary of state after winning the 2008 general election.
If she does decide to run, the conventional wisdom is that she'd be the instant front-runner in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination. And even potential 2016 rivals are praising her.
"She's great," said Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley Sunday on a Baltimore TV station.
"I think she's an outstanding leader, and I think she could be a great president, if she chooses to do it," added O'Malley, the popular two-term governor who may have his own designs on making a run for the 2016 Democratic nomination.
And Clinton's getting praised by Newt Gingrich, who made an unsuccessful bid for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination, and who as House speaker in the 1990's worked with, and fought against, then President Bill Clinton.
In a warning to his party, Gingrich said Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press" that if the GOP's "competitor in '16 is going to be Hillary Clinton, supported by Bill Clinton and presumably a still relatively popular president Barack Obama, trying to win that will be truly the Super Bowl. And the Republican Party today is incapable of competing at that level."
Clinton's favorable rating in the Politico/George Washington University poll stands out compared to some possible 2016 Republican presidential hopefuls. Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, Mitt Romney's running mate in the just concluded election, had a 47%-33% favorable rating. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush had a 39%-33% favorable rating, and first term Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida had a 33%-15% favorable rating, with just over one in three not knowing enough about him to form an opinion.
If she really does want to run or changes her mind once she's in private life, Clinton's most likely at least a year away from making any kind of decision, and we're about two years away from the real start of 2016 campaign, allowing plenty of time for Clinton's poll number to possibly fade. But for now, it's a nice place to be.
The Politico/George Washington University Battleground poll was conducted Dec. 2-6, with 1,000 registered voters questioned by telephone. The survey's overall sampling error is plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.
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