Hillary Clinton is still leading all comers in early polls of the 2016 presidential race. But these days, that has much more to do with the Republicans' weaknesses than with her strengths.
Much of Clinton's decline, predictably, is because Republicans and Republican-leaning independents have begun to sour on her as she has re-entered the political arena. While 31 percent of Republicans last year liked Clinton, just 12 percent do so today.
But there is also evidence of less-partisan voters straying from Clinton. Among Democratic-leaning independents, 84 percent approved of Clinton last year. Now, that number is 65 percent.
Of course, even as Clinton's image numbers have declined, her lead over her potential GOP opponents hasn't. She still leads Jeb Bush 54 percent to 40 percent in a prospective match-up, and her leads are even bigger against Ted Cruz (58-37), Scott Walker (55-38) and Marco Rubio (55-38). Those are all on a par with polling going back many months.
The reason? While Clinton isn't that well-liked anymore, these Republicans are in significantly worse shape. Bush, the former Florida governor, has an unfavorable rating of 53 percent, versus just 33 percent favorable, Rubio is 14 points underwater (24 percent favorable, 38 percent unfavorable), and Cruz is 20 points underwater (25-45). Only Walker's favorable rating (23 percent) is even close to his unfavorable rating (30 percent).
And here's the real kicker: While Clinton's favorable rating among independents is down to just 44 percent, she takes 49 percent of their votes in a match-up with Bush. Among moderates, 51 percent have a favorable opinion of Clinton, but 58 percent vote for her in a match-up with Bush. And she does even better against the other Republicans.
As long as the GOP candidates are losing voters who don't much like Clinton, they'll have a tough time beating her -- even if she's hardly the popular figure she was as secretary of state.
Of course, this is all extremely early, and there's still, you know, an actual campaign to be run. Opinions of all these Republicans are going to be far less hardened than they are of Clinton and have more room for improvement.
But this is where we begin.