Six months of Benghazi revelations last fall and winter did nothing to her numbers but Greg Hicks’s splashy testimony a few weeks ago may have finally made a dent. In February she was at 61/34. Today?
Her leads over Jeb Bush and Rand Paul in hypothetical match-ups have also shrunk to single digits, which is … encouraging, I guess? Despite ample evidence that State knew just how dangerous Benghazi was for diplomats stationed there and did little to demand appropriate security, Hillary’s popularity remains sufficiently strong to keep her ahead of every prominent Republican. What you’re seeing in these new numbers, I think, is less a reaction to Benghazi specifically than to her re-emergence as a polarizing “political figure.” For four years, as diplomat-in-chief, she was even further above the fray than President Above the Fray was. There was residual sympathy for her over losing a tough race in 2008, and she sure did seem to be working hard at State even though her actual foreign-policy accomplishments remain obscure. (She helped put together the “reset” with Russia, which is working out smashingly right now in Syria.) As you can see above, she remains almost uniformly popular with Democrats; it’s Republicans and independents who’ve soured on her a bit over the last three months, her favorables among the GOP dropping from 27 to 18 percent and among indies from 59 to 46 percent. Her topline number of 52 percent remains impressive at a moment when virtually every major politician on the American landscape is in negative territory, but compare that figure to where she’s been over the past five years. In most polls, she hasn’t been south of 60 percent since early 2009. She’s morphing from quasi-nonpartisan diplomat into a Democrat again; her numbers will morph with that. The one to watch going forward, I think, is her popularity among women. Even if there’s some inevitable slippage on partisan grounds, +27 right now means the GOP nominee will have to perform exceptionally well with men to beat her if she’s the Dems’ pick in 2016.
One other tidbit from the poll. This is … surprising:
Biden’s polling over the last three years shows him ranging from fairly strong job approval to an even split between those who approve versus disapprove. To find him seven points underwater here and 24 points underwater among indies(!) in terms of his favorable rating is odd. Maybe that’s a byproduct of his visibility during the big gun push or collateral damage from Scandalmania, but Obama’s own approval rating is bouncing around the break-even point. (Besides, the White House’s background-checks campaign tends to poll reasonably well.) Could be that, for whatever odd reason, Quinnipiac is systematically underestimating Democrats’ popularity in this poll. Which would mean Hillary’s numbers remain a bit higher than we think. Hmmm.