January 3, 2013 | 12:33 pm
The new Israel Factor panel had two surprises for us in our first ranking of the 2016 prospective presidential candidates. Yes, we’re already beginning the ranking of potential candidates on our regular good/bad-for-Israel scale. We started doing it more than two years before the 2008 election, did it from 2009 until the 2012 election, and now – fingers crossed – we’d like to begin our long journey from January 2013 to November 2016 and the next presidential election.
We have no illusions. Things will change, candidates will rise and fall, names will be added and erased from the board – and of course, our panel is likely to change its assessment as the race progresses. Back in 2006, we began with names of 24 prospective candidates – today we begin with 20. Many of them will never even think of running, some of them are long, long shots. But as we all know, to catch the right fish one has to cast a wide net. So we have as many as we could think of, and will probably add some more before we begin the process of elimination.
Two surprises: 1. Hillary Clinton is not the panel favorite: New York Governor Andrew Cuomo came out ahead of her as the Factor’s highest-ranked candidate. 2. Top Republicans are ranked lower than top Democratic candidates. This wasn’t the case in previous cycles, when first Rudy Giuliani (for the 2008 cycle) and second Mitt Romney (for the 2012 cycle) were the panel’s favorites. This time one can clearly see that there are three Democrats at the top, all ranked above the three top Republican prospectives.
To understand how this happened, one has to look into the way our panel votes. First, we took out candidates about whom more than four panelists don’t yet have an opinion. Then we looked at the way the vote of the panel is divided by political preferences. Since we have some background information from our panelists, we looked at the vote through the prism of three groups: those who think the Democratic Party is generally “better for Israel”, those who think the Republican Party is the better one, and those who think both parties are the “same” (our panel is neatly divided between these groups). Take a look at the vote of the three groups and the panel as a whole:
Andrew Cuomo (D)
Hillary Clinton (D)
Joe Biden (D)
Jeb Bush (R)
We can learn a lot from such a division, can we not? For example, that Cuomo beats Clinton thanks to the preferences of panel's “Republican-leaning” members. They give Clinton a mark just a tiny bit lower than the mark Cuomo gets from “Democratic-leaning” panelists.
More significant, though, is the current preference of the panel as a whole for Democratic candidates (Clinton, Biden, Cuomo) over Republican prospective candidates. To put it simply, the panelists who prefer Republican candidates are much nicer about Democratic candidates than vice versa. Example: Joe Biden is hardly a darling of the R-leaning panelists, but they still give him 6.5 out of 10. Marco Rubio is not the darling of the D-leaning panelists, but their verdict on him is much harsher (4.33). If this were true only for Biden and Rubio, we could have said that the problem is with one candidate or the other. But what we see are across-the-board rankings of this nature.
The panelists who believe that the Democratic Party is better for Israel also seem to think that any Republican candidate, be it Christie, Rubio, Bush or one of the rest, would be very bad (for Israel, that is – it’s all about who's good/bad for Israel). So much so, that only one Republican name – Condoleezza Rice – gets higher than a 5 from the D-leaning group. The R-leaning group is apparently much more comfortable with Democratic candidates; there's not even one Democrat who got less than a 5 from this group. And the result: a clear advantage to the prospective Democratic candidates.
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