Thursday, September 03, 2015


Yesterday, in The Washington Post, Greg Sargent argued that the email story isn't causing an unusually steep decline in Hillary Clinton's poll numbers -- in fact, public approval of Clinton reaches the levels we're seeing now whenever she's perceived as someone mired in politics:

... the pattern is pretty clear. After Bill Clinton won the presidency, Hillary Clinton’s national favorability rating jumped to 59 percent. It dropped during the 1994 midterm elections, and dropped precipitously, into the 20s and 30s, during the 1996 reelection campaign. It then climbed again, and reached a high point in the late 1990s, during the impeachment of Bill Clinton, when she became a sympathetic First Lady figure suffering the slings and arrows of politics.

Then, in 1999, when it became clear that Clinton was going to run for Senate from New York, her numbers sank down into the 50s and even into the 40s, where they remained throughout her victorious campaign. Her numbers then slowly climbed over the years, getting into the high 50s, then promptly sank just after she launched her last presidential campaign in early 2007. They jumped again, then dropped further towards the end of the losing 2008 presidential effort. They then rose again over the years as she carried out the job of Secretary of State, peaking in January of 2013 -- before plummeting steadily as it became increasingly clear she was running for president again, to where they are now that she’s a declared candidate.
Sargent adds that if there weren't an email controversy, something else would inevitably be dragging her numbers down:
If there had been no email story, voters would probably be getting fed other types of negative information, due to attacks from the opposition party and intensified scrutiny from the political media. And at any rate, Clinton’s career appears to illustrate -- perhaps to a unique degree -- that the American people have consistently been much tougher on her when she’s a politician than when she isn’t.
This information isn't privileged and confidential -- it's from Washington Post/ABC polls. It was readily available to members of the Democratic establishment, as well as to other ambitious Democratic politicians.

So why does it seem as if every Democrat looked only at Hillary's impressive approval numbers from a few years ago when deciding how to approach the 2016 race? Why did the party seem determined to create a glide path for her nomination? Why didn't a few more high-profile Democrats shrug off the then-current numbers and start making serious plans to run, based on the recognition that a steep decline in Clinton's numbers as sure to happen was soon as she was back in the fray?

It's sad to see Joe Biden looking at the race now and thinking maybe he might kinda consider whether he ought to sort of sidle into the contest. If he were going to make a move, he should have started making it a year or two ago. Maybe Elizabeth Warren or Kirsten Gillibrand should have thought about it. I have no great love for Andrew Cuomo, but it's obvious he thought about running and decided it wasn't worth the effort this time around. Why not? Can't he read polls?

Look, if Hillary Clinton had really become as imposing a figure as she seemed to be to poll-readers a year or so ago, she'd be beating marquee names with well-established campaigns right now, and she'd still be winning every national and swing-state poll against Republicans. But if she had weaknesses, as turned out to be the case, it would have been good to have a bigger field of candidates.

Bill Clinton got into the 1992 race when a lot of Democrats were assuming that George Bush was unbeatable in the general election. Barack Obama got into the 2008 race when Hillary Clinton seemed unlikely to lose the primaries (and he was joined by John Edwards and quite a few others, including Biden). Maybe Bernie Sanders is the guy who inherited their foresight (although I think he's trying to be a protest candidate and never quite expected the level of success he's had). But there wasn't much foresight on the part of Democrats. And they could have known a race was worth the risk.


Anonymous said...

Biden is not looking at the race. People who don't like Hillary Clinton and have had no influence on the current race have begun a whispering campaign -- a shot across the bow to warn Team Hillary to listen to their concerns. And you're falling for it. This is what the internecine dynamics of the Democratic Party always produce: old insiders (and donors and strategists) who think they're important pouting about the new insiders who ignore them at what they think is their own peril. Just tune it out.

Anonymous said...

"But there wasn't much foresight on the part of Democrats."

Will Rogers is still right.

Victor said...

I'm in the ABC Camp:
"Anybody But Cuomo!"

tony smith said...

This chart doesn't show Clinton is slipping. It's her favorability -- not poll numbers. The GOP invariably hate her; she is highly favored among Dems. Look at Real Clear Politics - she beats all other Dems.

Daro said...

"Sargent adds that if there weren't an email controversy, something else would inevitably be dragging her numbers down.."

Is that what the entrails of the crow told him? It's bullsh1t supposition without a shred of proof. He's been a Clintonista apologist from the day her campaign started and I'm happy to see he's had to charge into the zone of make-believe in order to find a way to defend her. That means the Clinton camp is out of bullets. She's dirty. And not even close to being a challenge to the oligarchy who are grinding the 99% under their heel.