Boomerang Effect For Edwards And Obama?

That's the word of Clinton strategist Mark Penn. Read his new memo after the jump.

My take: It's probably too early for a boomerang effect. Let's wait another week or so to see if any of the poor press coverage sank in.

The post-debate polls coming out this weekend show Hillary Clinton remaining strong in the general election, maintaining her leads in the primaries and in the key issues confronting the country. These polls are a reflection of the kind of campaign she is running and the fact that she has introduced detailed plans on crucial issues from Iraq to Health Care -- and now Energy.

The Newsweek poll conducted after the debate shows Hillary's lead against Barack Obama and John Edwards basically unchanged from the last few weeks. The ABC/Washington Post poll (pdf) shows her at 49 percent with a 23 point lead over Obama and a 37 point lead over Edwards. A new poll in Florida shows Hillary Clinton continuing to lead in that crucial general election state. And she leads Rudy Giuliani, John McCain, Fred Thompson and Mitt Romney in every general election match-up tested in the latest national polls. The match-up against Romney in the ABC/WP poll has her getting 57% - demonstrating her broad capability to reach across and pull in voters who have not voted Democratic before.

But make no mistake: there has been a big change in the race. For weeks, Obama and Edwards have been running "under the radar" negative campaigns despite giving the impression that they are focused on the issues. But in the wake of stagnant poll numbers, they have formally abandoned the politics of hope in favor of attacks on other Democrats. With their strategy now out in the open, they are beginning to pay a high price for it. (Almost every day now you can find the headline "Obama attacks Clinton on..." or "Edwards attacks Clinton on...").

Let's look at Obama's negatives in the ABC/Washington Post Poll. Over the course of the year they have gone from 23 percent to 36 percent. His negatives have been rising twice as fast as his positives and there are still 13% who have no opinion. (His positives went up 7 points, while his negatives went up 13 points over the last year). If these trends continue, Obama's unfavorables will be at around 44 percent - roughly the same as Hillary's - once the remainder of the electorate gets to know him better. Edwards' attack strategy seems to be failing completely to raise his standings or stature.

As I have consistently predicted, it is time for people to discard this false argument about Hillary's negatives - Edwards and Obama have not really been challenged or tested on the national scene the way Hillary has, and if that ever happens, their negatives will skyrocket. Meanwhile, Hillary has shown that she can substantially increase her support even in the face of stepped up attacks by her fellow candidates. And that's the real reason Edwards and Obama have switched their campaign strategies.

In the ABC/WP poll, Hillary had overwhelming leads with Democrats on electability, on dealing with Iran and dealing with Iraq. With each passing poll she is seen as the one who can win - this has moved among Democrats from 43% to 62% who believe she is the one who can get elected president.

The bottom line is that the data in the wake of the last debate reveals that Hillary remains strong in the face of these attacks while the other candidates are being viewed in an increasingly negative light. We may be seeing the beginnings of a boomerang effect on Obama and Edwards.