Plummeting from a great height to be sure, Philip Bump acknowledges, but definitely going in the wrong direction — fast. The initial read off of yesterday’s Gallup poll shows Hillary Clinton in good shape against the rest of the field, albeit a field with low name recognition. Most of her Republican competition has lots of upside in their numbers, but Hillary has reached almost total name recognition saturation … not exactly surprising for someone who has spent the last 22 years in Washington. Accordingly, her favorability/unfavorability gap plus her name recognition puts her almost literally in a class of her own in this survey:
Note that the Republicans who don’t cross the 50% line on familiarity are those with the early GOP buzz — Scott Walker, for instance, and Marco Rubio and Bobby Jindal as well. They all have lots of upside, while more well-known potential candidates like Jeb Bush and Chris Christie have less upside thanks to higher name recognition. Based on strictly personal observations, I’d guess that Rick Perry has the greatest chance to move up among the 50%+ crowd, based on his talent for retail politicking, but he’s behind the eight-ball at the moment.
Hillary looks unassailable at the moment — but this is just a moment, Bump reminds us. What happens when we look across almost a quarter of a century of Gallup data on Hillary Clinton? Bump charted the data on Hillary’s favorability since early 1992:
Three dynamics become apparent almost immediately, two of which Bump points out. First, her numbers are almost in a free fall over the last two years since leaving the State Department, and probably since Benghazi. Until then, Hillary had excellent favorability numbers, the best sustained trend in her national public life. Second, Bump points out the sudden jump among those who have no opinion on Hillary’s favorability in the last year. It’s now higher than it was since Bill Clinton’s first year in office, and it’s still going up. That’s not a good trend for a candidate who wants to argue for inevitability, which is really the only argument Hillary has to keep the Democratic process a coronation rather than a competition. That’s usually a transition stage to opposition, as Bump notes.
There is a third trend, more subtle, that Bump almost hints at but never quite points out. Look where the favorability lines trended negative. In every instance, that occurred during electoral campaigns — even in the second presidential campaign for Bill Clinton. In 1992, 1995-6, in her Senate race in 2000, and then when she ran for the Democratic nomination in 2007-8, Hillary Clinton’s favorability tanked. In fact, her negative favorability ratings were more sustained in that national election than at any other time. (The only exception was 2006, a Democratic wave election, when Hillary was mostly off the national radar in an easy re-election bid.)
The lesson? Hillary Clinton is a poor campaigner. She got away with it in 2000 because New York was a safe place for Hillary to run. Her husband is one of the most naturally-gifted politicians of his generation, but Hillary is most decidedly not. Bill feels your pain; Hillary, as I wrote after her press conference on Tuesday, feels her own entitlement — and it shows:
Americans have an affinity for brands, but the current populist trend in both parties makes dynastic politics a risk in national elections.
Now, though, the family brand for establishment politicians may matter less than the sense of entitlement that comes with it. …
Clinton could have defused the issue, or at least mitigated it somewhat, by offering a self-deprecating apology for having imposed standards on others that she didn’t follow for herself, and a pledge to allow an independent authority to vet her e-mail system. Instead, Clinton offered a haughty and imperious sneer to legitimate questions about her actions as a public figure, along with a message that might be most politely translated as pound sand.
At least for the moment, though, the Clinton playbook from the 1990s isn’t working. Her performance in the presser has been widely panned in the media, even with the attack dogs baying. The New York Daily News headline read “YOU’VE GOT FAIL,” while The New York Post’s read “DELETER OF THE FREE WORLD.” USA Today declared itself “troubled” over Clinton’s “penchant for secrecy.” The Washington Post quipped, “The circus is back in town.”
It’s not the circus. It’s a pretender to American royalty, demanding her coronation, and this is exactly what we can expect if Democrats are foolish enough to nominate her in 2016.
As her book tour showed, Hillary is a political mediocrity … at best. That’s why she lost the nomination in 2008 to a one-term Senate backbencher even with Bill trying to pull her across the finish line, and that’s when the Clintons were still culturally relevant. If a reasonably gifted Democrat challenged her, Hillary would likely lose the nomination again. If Democrats move forward with the coronation, those trend lines will have 20 months to develop into yet another electoral disaster for Hillary.