This scoop from Politico’s Nick Gass has the potential to turn the 2016 election cycle upside down. Hillary Clinton’s team has tapped into a new and heretofore unknown and powerful force in communications, one so powerful that it cannot be ignored, let alone withstood. Team Hillary comms directer Jennifer Palmieri’s response to media questions about falling polling numbers now has “withering sarcasm” to overcome any bad news that might be reported about her.
Not just sarcasm, Gass writes, but “withering sarcasm”:
Hillary Clinton’s campaign is deploying a new weapon in its running battle with the press: withering sarcasm. …
Clinton has so much trouble, a decidedly tongue-in-cheek Palmieri wrote, that one poll showed that “she only had a higher favorability number than any other candidate it tested.” In fact, she added, Clinton is polling a “disastrous” 68 percent in approval among Hispanic voters (according to a Univision poll out Thursday), and “only leads her closest competition,” Jeb Bush, by a mere 37 points in that survey.
Withering! Well, it might be, but Gass doesn’t provide any evidence of a specific wither. It’s not exactly an in-depth analysis. The Politico article basically regurgitates Palmieri’s points without any insight, other than to call it “withering sarcasm.” (Is that anything like Scott Walker being destroyed by a six-word press release?)
That’s a shame, too, because the sarcasm that impresses Gass so much is not only unremarkable, but it’s designed to keep media analysts from questioning the counterarguments. Palmieri points to a good fundraising quarter, with “more cash on hand than the top three Republican campaigns combined,” but that’s an artifact of the wide and credible market within the GOP. There are more than a dozen Republican candidates raising significant money, so beating the top three for COH isn’t exactly a mean feat for the only significant candidate in the other party. That strongly suggests that Republicans are beating Democrats overall for fundraising in the presidential cycle, and that will become a big problem later if the trend holds, as the GOP field narrows and the fundraising intensifies.
The same holds true for the head-to-head match-ups in early-stage primary polling, which are meaningless beyond name recognition. In fact, that was the key takeaway on the polling that Palmieri’s withering sarcasm intends to deflect. It’s true that Hillary had the highest positive rating on favorability on the list, but that’s because 91% of respondents have an opinion about her, the highest name recognition in the poll other than Barack Obama — who outpaces Hillary by seven points on positive favorability. Hillary has the second-highest unfavorable rating in the poll at 49%, trailing only Donald Trump. Jeb Bush’s numbers are similar to Hillary’s with 23% of the public undecided about him, but the rest of the field has a lot more upside — from 39% for Rand Paul to 75% for John Kasich.
And the rest of the Republican candidates don’t have 66% of respondents describing them as dishonest, 58% as uncompassionate, and 61% as uninspiring. Those are Hillary’s numbers on personal qualities after 23 years in the public eye, and those numbers are not likely to change much the more people see her.
Imagine what Gass might have written had he not been so impressed with Palmieri’s sarcasm and analyzed her arguments. Perhaps Gass should have read Reuters’ story today on how sarcasm and mockery obfuscate political reality. I’ll bet Palmieri has.