Polling firm Rasmussen Reports has launched what it calls the “Hillary Meter” to gauge periodically the New York senator’s popularity in the years preceding an expected run for president in 2008.

The company also will measure Clinton’s “effort to move to the political center,” which has already paid dividends.

According to the polling firm’s first “Hillary Meter” survey, 43 percent of Americans view the former first lady as politically liberal, down from 51 percent who held that opinion at the end of January. The number who view Clinton as politically moderate has increased in the same time period from 27 percent to 34 percent.

Rasmussen Reports says it will poll on the public’s perception of Clinton’s ideology twice monthly as long as she remains a viable candidate for president.

The latest polling data find Clinton to be a polarizing figure, with 32 percent saying that if she is the Democratic nominee for president, they will definitely vote for her and 37 percent saying they would definitely vote against her. Twenty-six percent say it depends on who her opponent is.

In January, Rasmussen found Clinton had a 47 to 40 percent lead over Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in a hypothetical match-up for president.

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