Hillary Clinton's popularity surge: 4 theories

A new poll names the Secretary of State the best liked politician in the U.S. What's behind the recent good will?

Hillary Clinton
(Image credit: REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer )

Hillary Clinton is the most popular politician in the U.S., according to a poll conducted for Bloomberg. Nearly two-thirds of respondents have a favorable opinion of the Secretary of State — certainly higher than Barack Obama's feeble 45 percent approval rating, his lowest yet as president. In fact, more than one-third of respondents believe that the country would be better off with Hillary, not Obama, as Head of State. (The former first lady has already ruled out another presidential bid, saying the chances she'd challenge Obama again are "below zero.") What's behind the recent surge in Clinton's popularity? Four theories:

1. Americans are suffering buyer's remorse

"Some of her appeal is that she is not Barack Obama," says J. Ann Selzer, president of the Iowa-based company that conducted the poll. Her poll numbers should surprise nobody, says Dan Amira at New York. "Considering how many people are unhappy with the Obama presidency, wouldn't any half-respectable political figure benefit from Obama buyer's remorse?" As the Democrat who was directly passed over for Obama, Clinton becomes the de facto beneficiary of the nation's collective wistful imaginings.

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2. She's proved herself as Secretary of State

In her tenure as Secretary of State, Clinton has proved herself to be "one of the few competent people in an otherwise feckless and timorous administration," says Dennis DiClaudio at Indecision. When looking at the poll results, says John McCormick at Bloomberg, it's telling that Obama comes off well only in areas that relate to foreign politics, which is under Clinton's sphere of influence.

3. She's been shielded from political muckraking

Secretary of State, says Gary Langer at ABC News, is a "position tailor-made for broad popularity...comfortably removed from the to and fro of contentious domestic policymaking." As such, says Amira, Clinton's been "sheltered the past few years from the recession's political fallout." She's had the luxury of remaining in the spotlight, thanks to her State post, but has by and large "remained above the partisan battles plaguing Washington," echoes Zeke Miller at Business Insider.

4. She might have been a "stronger leader" than Obama

"I don't think she would have bent as much" when it comes to policy, one respondent, Susan Dunlop, tells Bloomberg. Republicans, including a majority of Tea Partiers, are more inclined than the national average to think that the U.S. would be better off under a Clinton administration, according to the poll. GOP voters may say that, says Ed Morrissey at Hot Air, but Clinton certainly would have gotten more of her policies pushed through, including, perhaps, a health-care system overhaul with the public option attached. Imagine the GOP outcry at that.

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