09/21/2007 03:44 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Word Association

The new Pew
Research Center
survey that
we linked
yesterday includes a fascinating set of "word associations" that voters
make with the Democratic and Republican candidates. To follow up on my
discussion earlier in the week about the worth of primary polls, these early assessments
can tell us more about the evolving perceptions of the Democratic candidates
than the trial heat preferences.

The campaigns are now focusing on the early states, to be
sure, but the national news coverage reflects the messages that they are
striving to communicate. The Pew summary and the graphic reproduced below
provide an intriguing indicator of what voters are hearing:

See the full Pew report for a more complete summary of the
data. I am struck by the remarkable the degree to which Democrats see Clinton as "tough" and "smart,"
but give Obama points for "energetic" and "optimistic."

Note the way this data dovetails with the apparent strategies
of the two campaigns: This week Obama releases a new ad that embraces hope,
optimism and bipartisanship. Meanwhile, Clinton
releases a health care plan reflecting her "smart,
" side and, as Andrew Sullivan reminds
us, "calls Cheney ‘Darth Vader.'"

The Washington Post's Jon Cohen has more here.