Campaign Notebook

Polls indicate likability isn't everything

Rudy Giuliani and his wife, Judith, had breakfast at a New Hampshire diner last month. Giuliani has been eating meals heavy on the calories while he has been campaigning. Rudy Giuliani and his wife, Judith, had breakfast at a New Hampshire diner last month. Giuliani has been eating meals heavy on the calories while he has been campaigning. (Jim Cole/Associated Press/File)
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November 23, 2007

One of the numbers that leaped out of the new Washington Post-ABC News poll of Iowa voters came on the question of which candidate voters see as honest and trustworthy. On that quality, Republicans in the Hawkeye State don't think much of Rudy Giuliani.

Four percent of likely caucus participants cited the former New York mayor, putting him behind former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, former Tennessee senator Fred Thompson, and Senator John McCain of Arizona.

At the same time, 31 percent cited Giuliani as the strongest leader in the field, well ahead of all his rivals except Romney (who was at 30 percent).

A similar though less-striking relationship occurred among the Democrats.

Senator Hillary Clinton of New York was judged by a third of Iowa Democrats to be the strongest leader in the field, but half as many called her the most honest and trustworthy.

The findings seem to raise an obvious question: What ever happened to likability?

Bush was seen as a more likable candidate than Al Gore in the disputed election of 2000. Bush had an even greater edge on that attribute in his 2004 race against John Kerry.

This year, Clinton and Giuliani, the two candidates who lead the national polls, get lower ratings on trust and honesty than they do on strength and leadership, and as Mark McKinnon, who did the ads for Bush in 2000 and 2004 and now works for McCain, said Wednesday morning, "You usually don't like people you don't trust."

Mark Mellman, who was Kerry's pollster in 2004, said other attributes are more important than a candidate's likability and have been in past elections.

"I think likability is vastly overrated," he wrote. "It is just one dimension of personality to which voters react.


High-calorie campaigning
Heavy on the calories, light on the substance, and garnished with a touch of rhetoric - that's how Rudy Giuliani prefers to campaign when he's on the road.

Mostly shunning the policy-laden town hall settings favored by many of his rivals, the former New York mayor and Republican presidential candidate has opted instead to drop by popular eateries. He shakes some hands, compliments the chef, maybe makes a few remarks, and then gets down to business, sampling the local fare with true gusto.

From a lobster shack on the coast of New Hampshire to a South Philadelphia cheesesteak stand, to a barbecue joint in Oklahoma City, no culinary landmark is too obscure for the Giuliani campaign schedule.

But it's the all-American diner that is Giuliani's preferred campaign venue. He wolfed down a cheeseburger with lettuce and tomato at the Ocean Bay Diner on the Jersey Shore after decrying "Islamic terrorists." He tucked into cheesesteak, sausage, and meatball sandwiches at a diner in Tulsa, Okla., then boasted of reducing crime in New York.

At Peter's Grill in Minneapolis, Giuliani spoke darkly of "a Democratic plan to get us as close to socialized medicine as they can." But he passed up the menu's "President Clinton Special" - Canadian bacon and egg sandwich with vegetable soup, apple pie, and a Diet Coke - which commemorates a 1995 visit by President Clinton.


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