10 24 2014
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As Secretary of State Hillary Clinton testifies on Capitol Hill today on the deaths of the U.S. ambassador to Libya and three other Americans, she comes equipped with one thing on her side: Sky-high public opinion numbers.According to a new ABC News/Washington Post poll released Wednesday morning, just a few hours before the outgoing secretary of state testifies in front of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in the morning and before the House Foreign Affairs Committee in the afternoon, two-thirds of Americans say they have a favorable impression of Clinton, while just over one in four saying they have a unfavorable impression.

An NBC News/Wall Street Journal survey released last week indicated that nearly seven in ten approved of the job Clinton was doing as America's top diplomat, with just a quarter of the public saying they disapproved.

But both surveys point to a partisan divide, with nearly all Democrats and two thirds of independents, but only a minority of Republicans, giving Clinton a thumbs up. But that partisan divide is not nearly as wide as it is in polling of President Barack Obama.

Clinton is expected to testify for 90 minutes before each committee and senior officials tell CNN that the secretary of state will not shy away from any tough questions and intends to assert responsibility for weak security at U.S. diplomatic posts, something that State Department is urgently addressing, senior officials tell CNN.

House Foreign Affairs Chairman Ed Royce, R-California, met with Republicans on the House committee and urged them to be respectful of Clinton, a GOP member of the committee told CNN. While most lawmakers on both sides of the aisle genuinely do respect Clinton and don't have to be told, there was concern some new members may try to be combative in order to make an early name for themselves.

But GOP Rep. Jason Chaffetz of Utah said on CNN's "Starting Point with Soledad O'Brien" on Wednesday morning that Clinton is "going to get some very hard questions" on the State Department's role in handling security for diplomatic security in Libya before the attack, as well as what Clinton was doing the night of the violence.

Clinton was originally scheduled to testify last month but postponed her appearance as she was treated for illness, a concussion and a blood clot near her brain. The country's top diplomat returned to work just over two weeks ago.

While her overall numbers are very nice, it's best to take them with a grain of salt.

"One reason why Hillary Clinton's ratings are high may be that she is not running for office and holds a position that many Americans view as non-partisan. If she becomes an active candidate again, it would not be surprising to see her numbers decline," said CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. "We saw this before with her. When she was first lady, her favorable ratings were often in the high 60's, but they dropped below 50 percent as soon as serious talk started of her running for the U.S. Senate from New York."

Clinton is expected to step down as secretary of state later this month, with the Senate expected to confirm Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts as her successor.

The big question, of course, is whether Clinton makes a second bid for the White House.

Clinton has repeatedly said that she intends to retire to private life once and she's added that another run for president is not in the cards for her.

"Look, I'm flattered. I am honored," she told CNN's Wolf Blitzer last year about calls by other Democrats for her to consider another run in 2016. "That is not in the future for me, but obviously I'm hoping that I'll get to cast my vote for a woman running for president of our country."

According to a CNN/ORC International poll conducted last month, 85 percent of Democrats and independents who lean towards the Democratic Party said they'd be very or somewhat likely to support Clinton if she makes another bid for the Democratic nomination, with two-thirds of Democrats questioned saying they would be very or somewhat likely to support Vice President Joe Biden if he runs. Other possible 2016 candidates mentioned in the survey trailed Biden by at least 10 points.

 

CNN's Jake Tapper, Dana Bash, Elise Labott, Ted Barrett and Ashley Killough contributed to this report.

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