After being beaten up by the press over most of the summer for her email server, her favorability numbers, and her electability, Clinton has hit a stride of positivity. She apparently killed it during the first Democratic debate, which forced Jim Webb and Lincoln Chafee to drop out of the race, though both men’s candidacies were weak from the outset. Yet, Clinton saw a boost from Democratic-leaning voters in the post-debate analyses, and her bleeding with women voters seems to have stopped as well (via WaPo):
In July, Clinton garnered 71 percent support among Democratic women, higher than among men, but that fell to 42 percent in September. In the latest survey, Clinton has recouped most of that support and stands at 61 percent.
Women, it should be noted, made up a majority of voters in every primary and caucus in 2008 where exit polls were conducted. (Clinton won an average of 52 percent of women's votes that year.)
She’s now considered the most electable Democrat running. Overall, she enjoys a 22-point lead over Sanders nationally. Yet, that advantage isn't seen in Iowa of New Hampshire. Clinton leads Sen. Bernie Sanders by three in Iowa 46/43, but trails him by 15 in the Granite State 54/39, according to a new CBS/YouGov poll. Then again, when you average all the polls, Clinton leads Sanders by seven in Iowa, but trails him by less than three points in New Hampshire. We have until February of next year until Iowa, and it’s unlikely that Bernie will go on the offensive to truly undercut Hillary’s candidacy. He has thrown something resembling a jab over her DOMA support, but let’s see if this continues.
Concerning Benghazi, Hillary had the advantage of the American people being uninterested in the House proceedings last week, which lasted over ten hours. Moreover, GOP strategist Rick Wilson noted that the committee had lost the narrative before the former first lady even took her seat; that the stories were already written; and that Democrats and the media would give Hillary so much cover as to make the whole hearing seem irrelevant and pointless. The Media Research Center certainly documented the gushy coverage of the former Secretary of State here, here, here, here, here and here. Oh, and it’s also filled her campaign war chest (via Politico):
Donations have been flooding into campaign coffers over the past 13 hours since her testimony in front of the House Benghazi committee wrapped late Thursday night, thrilling Clinton fundraisers on the eve of a weekend-long finance committee meeting that couldn’t have come at a better time. According to communications director Jennifer Palmieri, the hour between 9:00 p.m. and 10:00 p.m. last night was their best fundraising hour of the campaign to date.
Rallying in Virginia Friday, Clinton said her campaign had broken the 500,000 donor mark, meaning she has gotten over 100,000 new contributors in October alone. The campaign then added that over half of the donations it received on Thursday were from new contributors, and that 99% of them were less than $250.
Without a doubt, it’s been a good month for Hillary. To add more good press coverage for her, Bloomberg’s Mark Halperin wrote that she’s probably going to be our next president, even with more Clinton drama that is surely to come as Election Day draws nearer. He listed all of her advantages at this point, which includes Sanders’ own campaign team realizing that their guy isn’t performing in a way that could realistically boot Hillary from frontrunner status. She’s not really worried about her likability, and with Biden out, she’ll gobble up that support that was on the fence waiting to see what the vice president was going to do. Also, one of her biggest assets, Bill, seems to be “ready to go,” amongst other things that should give Republicans some pause:
Hillary’s campaign is much less tense and fractious than was the 2008 team. There are fraught moments in Brooklyn, as in any campaign, and Clinton’s donors can get restive awfully quick, but this year’s model is one of relative peace and tranquility. Zen masters Podesta, Mook, and communications chief Jennifer Palmieri set the “been there, done that, seen that, dealt with that” sensibility.
Hillary has a first-class opposition research team that is saving nuggets to use once Republicans pick their nominee. Oppo veteran Christina Reynolds heads an operation that can afford to play a long game, teasing out incremental research in conjunction with allies such as the Democratic National Committee but knowing full well that holding back powerful tidbits until the late spring or summer, when the eventual Republican nominee will be most vulnerable, is supremely smart. The research operations of the Republican presidential campaigns, on the other hand, are currently focused on each other (although the independent group America Rising is hoping to make up the gap).
Hillary is ready for the debates. She won’t have as many debates in which to hone her skills as the eventual GOP nominee, but she has many other edges, including her 2008 experience; the fact that going forward she will face only one or two opponents—rather than nine or so—on the debate stage (much closer to the dynamics in a general election); her professionalized and experienced debate prep team (many of whom worked the same gig for Barack Obama); and her own fearsome, dogged, and scrupulous preparation.
Hillary’s pollster knows how to find issues that test 80-20 or 70-30, and the candidate knows how to translate them on the stump. While Republican presidential candidates thrash around competing to see who can be the most anti-immigrant, pro-tax cuts for the wealthy, anti-abortion and gay marriage, and pro-climate change-denying, Clinton’s pollster and strategist Joel Benenson is busy finding topics she can talk about in a general election that garner overwhelming support from the public across the political spectrum and will put the GOP nominee on the defensive. Nothing makes a Clinton running for president more confident and effective than having mainstream boldface issues to use as a cudgel.
Obama’s approval rating is holding at a level that would make Clinton’s path much easier. Yes, the economy is not going gangbusters. Yes, ObamaCare is not universally popular (to say the least). Yes, the world is filled with dangerous hot spots and looming, chilling threats. But barring some major change in his fortune, Obama’s current approval rating of around 46% is likely to sustain through Election Day, a high enough figure, history suggests, to keep him from being a drag on his party’s nominee and chosen successor.
Yes, pause, but not a rush to raise the white flags. Hillary is still flawed and eminently beatable if Republicans can find the right candidate. Moreover, yes, Clinton’s blasé attitude towards people not liking her will probably help her win the Democratic nomination. It’s something she doesn’t have to focus on (for now at least) since she knows she has the money and support to win the majority of the delegates, but what about the general election? It’s been the summer of the email server, but we haven’t even begun looking into the Clinton Foundation with newfound fervor yet. It’s cyclical. Earlier this year, we all found out about the server and the Foundation’s ethically questionable arrangements. The media decided to focus on the private email system, the timeline of the system, the possible break in government regulation and protocol, the dissemination of classified information, and the FBI investigation into it. Now, it’s the Foundation’s turn, which many have said could be one of Clinton’s greatest 2016 weaknesses. Robert Merry of the National Interest wrote how Clinton’s candidacy could show a shift that this nation has taken towards oligarchy, not towards the left, while also exhibiting the “reckless politics” of the Democratic Party to allow this flawed candidate become the nominee without so much of a serious challenge:
An August Quinnipiac University poll found that 61 percent of respondents didn’t think Clinton was honest and trustworthy. That number was 10 percentage points higher than a previous poll outcome just a month before. Perhaps that’s not surprising, given the many misstatements she has uttered in the course of defending herself in the face of the email scandal.
Further, the Huffington Post reports that in nine separate October polls measuring Clinton’s favorable rating against her unfavorable one, she was “underwater” in all but one, meaning those with an unfavorable view of her outnumbered those with a favorable view. The gap in the one “above water” poll was 1 percentage point. The underwater gaps were as follows: 13 percentage points, 4, 7, 6, 2, 20, 11, and 20.
Maybe the voters have become so jaded and cynical that they really don’t care about such things, as Sanders says. But that would represent a significant departure from voter behavior of past elections. Scandals have always mattered in American elections. We know from history that they can upend incumbents, stop challengers in their tracks, destroy careers. Maybe Hillary Clinton is different, but if so then this is a different country from what it used to be.
If Clinton can win the nomination before any votes are taken, then we have to consider how far America has traveled toward oligarchy. This aspect takes on more serious implications when we throw the Clinton Foundation into the discussion.
While the Benghazi investigation is important, and should be continued, the Republicans better look at other ways to undercut Clinton since this event isn’t it. Liberal writer Bill Scher also had a good counterpoint to Merry regarding scandals in presidential politics:
The failure of Benghazi to take down either Obama or Clinton should not have surprised anyone. Presidential scandal politics almost never pay off for the opposition party.
Six months after the Abu Ghraib torture revelations surfaced, President George W. Bush won re-election with a larger popular vote share than in his first race. The same was true for Bill Clinton in the aftermath of Whitewater, Travelgate and Filegate. House Republicans’ headlong pursuit of impeachment led to Democratic gains in the 1998 midterms, precipitating the fall of Speaker Newt Gingrich.
In the decade that came before, Ronald Reagan had shrugged off first-term scandals involving cabinet officials to win re-election easily. After Democrats conjured up a Republican “sleaze factor” theme, Reagan carried 49 states in 1984. The Iran-contra scandal was a bigger challenge—a special prosecutor’s report would eventually hurt George H.W. Bush in 1992—but by that time Reagan had forged a historic arms control agreement with the Soviets, helped George H.W. Bush win the presidency, and left office with high personal popularity and job approval ratings.
Now, it’s only been ten days. The media could go being all skeptical about the Clintons tomorrow, two days, a week, or a few weeks from now. But the former Secretary of State has had a good run these past few days. Is she now inevitable, or is that just the media saying so? We’ll find out soon enough. How should we deal with the Clintons, “penicillin-resistant syphilis of American politics,” without blowing our own toes off?
Debate amongst yourselves, folks.