According to the cast of Hillary Clinton surrogates and allies who populate cable news sets, the former secretary of state’s scandalous decision to endanger American diplomatic security by constructing a homebrew email server out of “convenience” is a manufactured issue. Few are paying attention to the story, they say, and those who are watching closely aren’t especially concerned about it.
This week, Clinton’s backers in the Beltway got some poll numbers that supported their case. A CNN/ORC survey taken after the email story broke showed Clinton has not shed much support among voters. She still leads each of the five Republican presidential prospects CNN/ORC tested by double digits, and the former Cabinet secretary maintains a commanding lead with pivotal voting blocs like women and minorities.
But the scandalous revelations keep coming. On Wednesday, it was discovered that the substandard security protocols applied to Clinton’s personal email system were so poor that it was vulnerable to “spoofing.” Meaning that a foreign intelligence service could easily have hijacked her email system and impersonated Clinton in electronic communications with her aides or associates inside the American diplomatic community.
Clinton will one day have to answer for all these charges. When she does, she will have to explain in granular detail why she behaved as callously as she has. If the press doesn’t force her into it, a Republican on a debate stage in October of 2016 will. And while the Beltway looks at the polls and shrugs, Clinton’s grassroots supporters are apparently far more disturbed by her behavior and its implications.
Recently, Game Change and Double Down co-authors Mark Halperin and John Heilemann, in partnership with the polling firm Purple Strategies, traveled to New Hampshire where they held a focus group with loyal Clinton supporters. Halperin previewed the results of that focus group in an appearance on Morning Joe on Thursday and revealed that Clinton’s voters are much more apprehensive about their party’s prospective nominee than are her apologists in the media.
“The people you saw there were mostly strong Hillary supporters,” Halperin said. “Their knowledge of and intense concern about what she did with her emails was quite striking.”
Halperin added that focus group participants were not merely vexed by the damning political implications associated with the former secretary of state’s behavior, but also by the lackadaisical approach to national secrecy and the lack of ethics in her decision making process.
These are wise voters. The press is already succumbing to the demands of their short attention span and has largely moved on from the email scandal even as new revelations emerge. This was an impulse that Clinton counted on when she embarked on a campaign of stonewalling, and she made the correct calculation. It would, however, be shortsighted for anyone to think that this scandal or the Clinton Foundation’s controversial fundraising practices have been neutralized.
Clinton’s responses to questions posed by a handful of reporters during an improvised press conference last week were far from satisfactory. If her supporters are apprehensive, they have good reason to be. No matter what the polls say today, it’s going to be extremely difficult for the Democratic Party to retain control of the White House for a third consecutive term. That task will become infinitely more difficult if the party’s nominee is indelibly tarnished.