Hillary Clinton hit her highest unfavorable rating in seven years in the new Washington Post/ABC poll, and that’s no coincidence. That was also the last time that Hillary Clinton had a shot at the presidency, too, and the long campaign eroded her standing with American voters. This time around, she just reached the 2008 nadir more quickly:
Let’s start with the bad news for Clinton. Fully, 53 percent have an unfavorable impression of her, the highest since April 2008 in Post-ABC surveys. That mark is eight percentage points higher than in July, though not as far from a Post-ABC poll in late May (49 percent). Intense views also run clearly against Clinton, with almost twice as many having a “strongly unfavorable” view of her (39 percent) as “strongly favorable” (21 percent).
Having said that, the alternatives don’t look much better:
Concerns about Clinton’s falling popularity have fed uncertainty among Democrats about her electability, as well as speculation that Vice President Biden will challenge her for the Democratic nod. But the Post-ABC poll finds Biden’s image before starting a campaign is far from stellar, at 46 percent favorable to 46 percent unfavorable.
What’s more, among fellow Democrats, Clinton boasts a higher favorability rating of 80 percent to Biden’s 70 percent. Both Biden and Clinton garner favorable ratings above 80 percent among liberal Democrats, but among moderate and conservative Democrats, Clinton’s 3-to-1 positive ratio outstrips Biden’s 2-to-1. Clinton is also more popular with Democrats than Donald Trump or Jeb Bush among their base; each candidate’s favorable ratings among Republicans stand below 60 percent.
So much for the Biden option. These numbers reflect Biden as Vice President, and as a somewhat idealized Plan B for Democrats. When Biden actually starts to campaign — if he starts to campaign — voters will shortly get a much different sense of Joe Biden. Frank Bruni takes people down Memory Lane to remind them of a few points about Biden’s presidential bids:
Voters are anti-Washington in particular, and more than 42 of those years have been spent in the national’s capital, as a senator from Delaware and then as the vice president.
Aspects of his legislative record are more troubling for him now than ever before. As Nicholas Fandos noted in a recent story in The Times, Biden pushed for, and later crowed about, tough-on-crime legislation in the 1980s and 1990s that preceded the mass incarceration of today. That would be a wedge between him and the Democratic Party’s black voters especially.
And as Steve Eder noted in another recent story in The Times, Biden was, of necessity, an ambassador for the financial services industry in Delaware. That hardly positions him to win the favor of liberal Democrats who yearn for a crackdown on Wall Street. …
And while much about circumstances and about Biden has changed since then, what hasn’t, at least not significantly, is the uncorked, uncensored quality that contributed to his troubles before.
In other words, he’s a 20th-century Democrat who would have to run in a 21st-century Democratic Party, and still a gaffemaster to boot.
Back to the WaPo/ABC poll data, a series which has been substantially sunny for Hillary in the past. How sunny? Her previous favorable/unfavorable rating was 52/45 six weeks ago. That has changed 15 points in the gap since to 45/53. In May Hillary got 45/49, but that was a far cry the 67/26 she registered in this series as she left the State Department. Crashing to a -8 favorability in this series says something about Hillary’s standing, even if Democrats have no realistic Plan B at the ready.
Interestingly, the Post/ABC didn’t bother to ask questions about Hillary’s internal qualities. Perhaps they figured they could guess what those numbers would look like. Instead, they asked favorability questions about Biden, and Donald Trump and Jeb Bush on the GOP side. Both Republican candidates have serious favorability issues, and not much upside. Trump gets 37/59 with only 4% undecided, and Bush gets 38/55 and 7% undecided. That still doesn’t tell us much unless we know the favorability ratings of the other Republican candidates, but the Post/ABC didn’t ask about those either.
The only real lesson we get from this poll is that Hillary’s plummeting, and Democrats have no other realistic options on the table. That’s not exactly news, not even to most Democrats.