Who's Afraid of Hillary Clinton?

Ramesh Ponnuru writes:

Sen. Clinton said last night that Republicans were afraid to run against her. I don't think that's right: I think that right now the conventional wisdom among Republicans is that Obama would be a stronger candidate. I think that CW is wrong, myself: I think Clinton's relative hawkishness, greater experience with tough elections (albeit at her husband's side rather than running herself), and more practical approach to politics will make her seem more presidential than him. It also makes me prefer her to him in the primary, not that I'll be voting in it.

My own sense is that Hillary has a slightly better chance of winning against a strong Republican candidate than Obama does - but that Obama has a much higher potential upside if things go well for him. His lack of experience, both in elective office and in competitive races, could mean that he'd get exposed in the general election and "opened up like a soft peanut" by a savvy GOP campaign, whereas Hillary is battle-hardened enough that there's less of a risk of her falling apart under pressure. But if Clinton wins, it's more likely to be a Bush-style victory - 50-52 percent of the vote in polarized electorate - whereas Obama, if he proves tough enough to take what the GOP throws at him, actually has a chance at the landslide that Karl Rove always dreamed of.

This Rasmussen survey is particularly telling:

Thirty-three percent (33%) of Likely Voters say they’d definitely vote for Illinois Senator Barack Obama (D). That’s the highest total received by any of ten leading Presidential hopefuls included in the poll. Thirty-three percent (33%) also say they’d definitely vote against Obama giving him a net differential of zero . . . Other polling during the past month found Obama’s favorability ratings have increased to the highest level of any 2008 candidate.

As for Hillary . . .

Opinions are most solid concerning the frontrunner for the Democratic nomination, New York Senator Hillary Clinton—78% have an opinion of whether they’ll definitely vote for or against her regardless of who she runs against. That includes 30% who would definitely vote for the former First Lady and 48% who would definitely vote against her.

A third of the electorate is undecided on Obama; less than a quarter is undecided on Hillary. And she's losing the people who are decided by eighteen percentage points. You can win an election with those numbers, but you can’t win it by much.