Hillary Clinton has emerged from the F.B.I. investigation into her email practices as secretary of state a wounded candidate with a large and growing majority of voters saying she cannot be trusted, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll....They're tied, 40%-40%. Granted, President Obama trailed Mitt Romney by 1 in a Times/CBS poll conducted in July 2012, and Obama went on to win comfortably. But Obama was never as disliked as Clinton is now. He was never as broadly distrusted.
Mrs. Clinton’s six-percentage-point lead over the presumptive Republican nominee, Donald J. Trump, in a CBS News poll last month has evaporated. The two candidates are now tied in a general election matchup, the new poll indicates, with each receiving the support of 40 percent of voters.
Trump -- the guy who gave us Trump University and the Trump Institute -- is beating Hillary Clinton on trust inthe new poll:
As Mrs. Clinton prepares to accept the Democratic Party’s nomination at the convention in Philadelphia this month, she will confront an electorate in which 67 percent of voters say she is not honest and trustworthy. That number is up five percentage points from a CBS News poll conducted last month, before the F.B.I. released its findings....Also:
Mr. Trump is also distrusted by a large number of voters -- 62 percent -- but that number has stayed constant despite increased scrutiny on his business record and falsehoods in his public statements and Twitter messages.
Last month, those polled were evenly split on whether Mrs. Clinton or Mr. Trump would do a better job handling the economy and jobs. Now, 52 percent said Mr. Trump would be better, compared with 41 percent for Mrs. Clinton.I understand that the James Comey press conference left a lot of fence-sitters believing that Hillary Clinton absolutely can't be trusted (and I know that the impact of the press conference will, in time, fade somewhat). But hasn't enough been said about Trump's sleazy practices to keep him permanently ahead of her on untrustworthiness? And why, even for the moment, is the King of Bankruptcy way ahead on handling the economy?
I was looking at the speaker list for the upcoming Republican convention. It reminded me of nothing so much as the lineup of speakers for a dubious get-rich-quick seminar held at a midsized suburban auditorium:
From sports there is [Tim] Tebow, the former quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner who is known for his conservative views; Dana White, the president of the Ultimate Fighting Championship, a mixed martial arts organization; and Ms. Gulbis."Ms. Gulbis" is Natalie Gulbis. She may be only the 484th-ranked female golfer in the world, but she is blond and of Latvian descent and she's modeled for the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue, so she'll probably be Trump's fourth wife.
Are these people big stars? They are if you believe they are, just as Trump is a brilliant businessman if you believe he is.
And that's the problem. Clinton and Trump are both telling stories about themselves that don't precisely match the truth -- but if you believe Clinton's side of the email story, what do you have? She engaged in ill-advised secrecy that didn't really harm anybody, in the process of trying to steer U.S. foreign policy through a rather rough patch. In other words, she's not a bad person at all -- but the narrative doesn't contain much hope.
Whereas, if you believe Trump's torrents of undiluted bullshit, he's filthy rich, he can make you filthy rich, and you know he can do that because he spends his life surrounded by glamorous stars, some of whom he's generous bought along to amuse and edify you. Believing in his business brilliance and his Z-listers' star power is exactly like believing that the emperor is wearing clothes, or that the youth band at the end of The Music Man is playing brilliantly -- but people do believe that sort of thing. They want to believe. Believing makes them feel good -- about themselves, about the future.
So, for a lot of people, it doesn't matter that Trump is far more dishonest than Clinton. It doesn't matter how little harm her email server did, in contrast to how many lives Trump ruined with his scams. What matters is how much better his untruths make these people feel, once they surrender to them.
I know, I know: The immediate aftermath of the Comey press conference is a low point for Clinton; her numbers are likely to turn around. She leads in nearly every poll. Nonwhites and young people detest Trump. College-educated whites, who usually favor Republicans somewhat, are going for Clinton this time, so far.
But if the race remains tight, if Trump sustains the (for him) discipline of the past week, when he didn't go on racist tirades after the Dallas police shootings, and if Clinton makes a few more mistakes, this race could be neck-and-neck again.
At which point Clinton will need to be a candidate of hope, like her husband or like Obama. She can do traditional political hope -- this year, regrettably, she just hasn't.
So the bigger liar might have a shot, because he offers a bigger hope, at least to the greater fools.