Polling data, a year and a half before the election, has almost no information in it. Then again, neither do those talking heads, and folks like me don't know anything either, and that's never stopped me from spouting ideas. So:
RealClearPolitics reports that, at present, Giuliani wins the GOP nomination (he's at 28% nationally; McCain is next at 20%; McCain, though, wins Iowa and New Hampshire, and Intrade is leaning towards McCain). The Democrats have fewer top contenders, and Clinton flies by with 35%, although the most recent Rasmussen poll has Obama almost tying. Gore is currently leading Edwards.
These polls are of "likely voters", and ask questions close to "if the election were help today, for whom would you vote". The more fun, and even less useful, polls are the head-to-head races, asking those polled to pick which of a particular Democrat and a particular Republican. In those, Obama currently edges by Giuliani, who squeezes past Clinton, who barely wins against McCain. Edwards does the best of leading candidates; Romney does the worst. (This is interesting: OnTheIssues has Edwards the most liberal of all of them, and Clinton and Obama exactly tied.)
I'm actually really excited about Giuliani winning the Republican nomination. He's pro-choice, and supports civil unions; he would pull the party to the left. I'm ecstatic about the idea of having two pro-choice parties in this country.
Of course, that likely means he wins the White House. This I'm not entirely unhappy with: if we lose Congress, then any Republican President would be disastrous, but provided we keep the legislative branch, we'd be able to work with Giuliani. He would not veto our social agenda, and we'd work with him on the economy — hell, Pelosi managed to work out trade bills and budgets with the current President, and these days Demorats are more fiscally conservative than Republicans. I think the country works well when we have different parties in power, and a Giuliani presidency would be a staunch repudiation of the Basest of Republicans.
Then again, perhaps he doesn't win. If spun correctly, this is still a critique of the ultra-right: the rightists nominated him, and couldn't even make good. But their spin machines are better than ours, and I worry that Giuliani losing looks more like a failure to energize the Base — it almost strengthens the ultra-right.
I still think that Clinton, of all the candidates in either party, would make the best President. She's brilliant, and extremely experienced in so many things. But will she surmount her negatives? Thirty percent of Americans right now say that they will never vote for her under any circumstances. Put her alone in a room with her and she'll win them over, of coruse — look at what she's done to Newt Gingrich and other Congressional rightists who used to abhor her. But that's not how elections are won.
Then again, I wonder if she might be the only Democrat who actually stands a chance. Her campaign machine is intense; the NYTimes reports that her husband will, come Fall, start doing campaign stops for her, and for now is bringing in over $100,000 a night fundraising. He plans to win, for her, Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, and Florida.
More than that, Clinton is the only person whom I believe could withstand a Swift Boat attack. The best thing for Obama in the next few months is to air all his dirty linens, and get it out of the way. I'm glad that Fox News has already done the "he went to a madrassa! His middle name is Hussein!" thing. Yes, Obama was raised Muslim, and then converted to a particularly lefty Black Power Christianity. What's more American than that? But, no, I don't think Obama can stand up to the kind of plain lies that those cheating rightists are willing to spread. Or, rather, I don't think anyone can, and Obama hasn't yet shown himself an exception. But Clinton can: she's been in the national limelight for fifteen years, and every election they throw dirt at her, and every time she comes out even stronger.
I wonder who the veeps will be. Richardson would make a great Vice President — he was, after all, on the shortlists for both Gore and Kerry — but neither Obama nor Clinton can ask him (the latter makes the ticket too centrist-Clintonian, with the former the media will never get over a black guy and an hispanic). And Richardson is too conservative for my tastes. The ticket I'm fascinated by is Obama-Clark. Clinton could ask Obama; I desperately want Obama to be President four or eight years from now, when he's had a little more Senate time — I want him to have chaired a committee; being VP, or even VP candidate, will help him on that road. Obama should not ask Clinton, and she should say no, because she's too ambitious? Maybe, if they in fact get along really well, it would work. But I doubt it.
Besides, if she doesn't win the White House, Clinton should seriously consider party leadership in the Senate. I've never been that enamored of Harry Reid, although he's fine, and Pat Murry, Richard Durbin, and Chuck Shumer are also all kinda boring. So, to complete the fantasy: Giuliani (and a reasonably liberal VP) in the White House, and Pelosi and Clinton controlling the two houses of Congress.