It’s all laughs until it turns to tears … again. In 2008, Democrats assumed Hillary Clinton would march to her coronation and restore the Clinton crown in the White House from the Bush clan in a sort of American War Of The Roses, only without all the Richard III-style messiness. A funny thing happened on the way to the throne, however — a usurper in the form of another Senate backbencher demonstrated superior organization and campaigning over the entitled, insular royal figure who most assumed would hardly break a sweat on her way to making history.
Seven years later, establishment Democrats have begun to express their shock, shock that the mediocrity who booted an easy primary in 2008 turns out to be a mediocrity in the process of booting another primary in 2015/16. This time, for all intents and purposes, Hillary even began without any competition, and still appears unable or unwilling to improve — and that has Democrats “troubled,” according to the Hill:
Democrats are troubled by the slow responses Team Clinton has given to major and minor controversies that have dogged Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign. …
Last week, Democratic strategists, lawmakers and their aides breathed a sigh of relief when Clinton apologized for using the personal server to handle work-related matters.
But some Clinton allies say it may have been too little, too late. They argue that while Clinton waited to confront the problem head-on, her allies were left fumbling to try to explain away the problem.
“It was just sitting there, like the elephant in the room, for all of us to answer,” one senior aide on Capitol Hill said. “And this wasn’t just happening for days. It took all summer.”
It’s not as though these Democrats didn’t know Hillary was a terrible candidate. Last year, she launched a book tour in support of her second memoir, Hard Choices, which should have given her weeks of softball interviews and fawning coverage. Instead, Hillary stepped all over herself by insisting that the Clintons exited the White House “dead broke” while buying a second mansion and during Hillary’s successful run for the Senate. Her attempts to spin the claim brought even more derision, and exposed — once again — their insular and arrogant mien.
Those aren’t just my words, either:
“With the Clintons, the media is always wrong and they can never get anything right, so when there’s a story about them, they’re not going to believe it even when it’s true,” said one longtime Clinton ally. “The whole world could be jumping up, saying, ‘You’re wrong,’ but they’re reaction is always, ‘What? Nothing’s wrong.’ ”
The longtime Clinton ally chocked it up to arrogance and insularity coupled with campaign aides unwilling to speak up to their boss.
When even Clinton allies are commenting — anonymously, natch — about her “arrogance and insularity,” then Brooklyn, we have a problem.
And it may get worse, at least in the short run. Polling analyst Nate Silver believes Hillary has been caught in what he calls a “poll-deflating feedback loop” that started the day that the New York Times reported on the FBI investigation into her server. Democrats have to make a decision soon on whether this will continue in the long run, and prepare for that collapse:
[T]he email story was back in the news after several months when there hadn’t been much reported about it. And subsequent stories about the investigation into Clinton’s email server, from the Times and other news outlets, have proved to be better-reported than the Times’s initial misfire.
Meanwhile, that was also about the time that speculation about a late Biden entry ramped up, particularly beginning with an Aug. 1 story by Maureen Dowd of The New York Times.4 A lot of the Biden stories have a Groundhog Day feel to them; they contain relatively little hard evidence about his intentions, and Biden continues to postpone his decision about whether to run. But Biden and his confidants may be deliberately keeping his name in the news to test Democrats’ appetite for a Biden bid. Whenever there’s a lull in the news cycle, Biden’s name seems to pop up again.
Then, of course, there are the stories about Clinton’s poll numbers. The media can, and sometimes will, cherry-pick polls to reinforce its preferred narrative about the campaign, even when the data doesn’t support it. Lately, however, they haven’t needed to cheat: There have been some genuinely poor results for Clinton in the polls. She’s fallen behind Sanders in most polls in New Hampshire and some polls in Iowa, and she increasingly also trails Republicans in hypothetical head-to-head matchups.
No one of these stories is necessarily all that damaging to Clinton on its own. But together, they potentially enhance and reinforce one another. Biden is being included in most polls of the Democratic race, and his numbers have improved as the media has given more coverage to his potential campaign, with most of that support coming from Clinton. Furthermore, the various Clinton scandals — past, present and future — areone of the principal rationales for Biden to run, whether or not he says so explicitly. It’s hard to prove whether the email scandal itself is directly responsible for driving down Clinton’s numbers, and it’s possible that the patina of negative associations generated by the story matter more than the details.5 But it certainly isn’t helping her.
The other thing not helping Hillary is Hillary herself. Democrats may be wringing their hands over their heiress presumptive‘s lack of talent, but they had eight years of experience telling them this all along. For their feigned shock, shock that Hillary Clinton is unresponsive, arrogant, and insular, Democrats get the Captain Louis Renault Award.
Hillary would have their winnings, but she’s dead broke.