by Chris Matthews
Ever since I was in first grade, I’ve been aware that the heroes of the two parties are not necessarily the people who win the presidency. Think Adlai Stevenson. Think Barry Goldwater. Compare them to some of the lesser lights who’ve gotten to the Oval Office.
I see another prospect for this list:
The latest Gallup Poll Daily tracking has Sen. Barack Obama leading Sen. John McCain 51 to 38 percent among women.
You can attribute much of that growing edge to the gutsy, gung-ho campaign ran by Sen. Hillary Clinton. She achieved two big results in all these hard-fought months: she energized older women voters and she heightened the vitality of women’s issues.
Clinton’s hard-charging candidacy guarantees that her women supporters will be more politicized than at any time in memory. A new poll by Peter Hart shows that half the women voters in battleground states don’t know that McCain wants to overturn Roe vs. Wade. Once they learn that fact, expect a substantial shift toward Obama. If Obama speaks to their concerns - health care, education, child development and abortion choice - with more authenticity and passion than his Republican rival, he will have the strongest chance for their support in November.
Some of the greatest political figures never won the presidency. The pantheon of truly revered Democrats of modern times includes Stevenson, who lost twice, and Hubert Humphrey, who lost three times. On the other side of the aisle, the beloved Robert Taft and Goldwater stand at the highest level of party respect.
Clinton may have earned her membership in this list of greatness even if she didn’t win the election this year. Certainly she has a big role to play in who will. The new NBC-Wall Street Journal poll has her leading McCain among “suburban women” by 14 percent, Obama trailing McCain with that group by 6 percent. Here is a prime case where she holds sway with a big category of voters where Barack Obama needs help.