This week Hillary Clinton, when confronted by an adoring supporter for an autograph while in a receiving line in New Hampshire, haughtily instructed the woman to “go to the end of the line.” This trait of royalty hasn’t been adding to Hillary’s favorability ratings, particularly when the current trend-lines have been bad for her.
According to this week’s CNN/ORC poll results, despite her overwhelming dominance amongst the Democratic primary voters, of whom 60% say they will vote for her, Hillary’s negative ratings have soared to their highest level in 15 years.
57% of all voters say that the presumptive Democratic nominee is actually dishonest and untrustworthy, and only 47% say Hillary cares about people like them. These numbers would ordinarily just be a mild concern this far out, given that the election is a year and a half away. But the trend-lines are disturbing and rapidly getting worse, and this must seriously worry the Clinton loyalists on her staff.
In March, “only” 49% of the polled voters believed Hillary to be dishonest—a full eight points lower than today. In July 2014, Hillary’s hauteur, while still an issue, was less of a factor: a full 53 percent said that Hillary cares about people like them.
Probably the substantial dip in Hillary’s poll numbers since March reflects the twin scandals she’s been enduring: the revelations that she illegally conducted all her top secret business while Secretary of State on her personal computer and then deleted all the emails, and the dripping noise about donations to her husband’s foundation best summarized in the book “Clinton Cash.”
But with Hillary, there’s always another scandal waiting to be unpacked. From the 1980s Whitewater land deals to 1993’s travel office mass firings to Benghazi, Mrs. Clinton is second only to her husband in her predilection for stepping on her own message by answering scandals.
In general election match-ups, Clinton now runs about even with Rand Paul, Scott Walker and Marco Rubio, while she still bests Jeb Bush and Ted Cruz by a decent margin. These downward (for her) shifts stem largely from a change of heart among independents. Considering that each of the three top national GOP hopefuls possesses significant weaknesses of his own, the revelation that the independents have been deserting Hillary for any of the GOP’s “big three” must be cause for real alarm.
It might be said that the Clintons are uniquely survivable organisms. They go on and thrive despite what seem to be monumental odds, up to and including impeachment. It should be recalled that even during the worst year of Bill Clinton’s Presidency, 1998, when the Lewinsky scandal broke and enmeshed itself in the national psyche, Mr. Clinton’s job approval stubbornly stayed above 60% and Democrats actually gained seats in the fall congressional elections.
But there are two big differences. One, the times: the 1990s were an era of rapid economic growth, budgetary surpluses, the invention of the Internet and the consequently economy-transforming tech boom. We may never see the like of this time again, and many in the public believed that President Clinton had something to do with this age of Croesus. They could not imagine cutting out the supposed source of their winning streaks, even if the streak was as simple as extra overtime offered at the factory.
The second difference is the personal distinction between Bill and Hillary Clinton. The President has always had an extraordinary personal charm and likeability, which he could turn on and off at will. Legions of those who recall meeting Bill Clinton agree that a personal encounter with the man left you with the feeling that you were the most important person on earth. Surely this charm protected him, to some extent, like a sacred talisman.
But with Hillary, there is no charm. It is rather the coldness of her heart that breaks through, not any impression of presidential connectedness. Go to the back of the line, chump. Then vote for me.
Will voting for the first woman president be enough of an attractant for the independent voter? Perhaps. But my betting is against it.
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