Before House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s shocking defeat, the biggest story of the week was Hillary Clinton’s stumble out of the gate of her book tour, with a comment that she and Bill were “dead broke” when they left the White House and a clarification to a factual error in the memoir.
On Wednesday, a new Gallup Poll showed that her favorability rating had dropped to its lowest level since 2008, the year she lost her last presidential run.
The hard truth is that that things will only get worse for the former secretary of State before they get better, even if she and her team do everything perfectly.
Clinton’s numbers have been artificially high since she’s been out of partisan politics and are due for a correction as she wades back into the mudslinging of the daily news cycle and Republicans head to their battle stations.
As Jonathan Chait notes, Clinton as secretary of State and then a private citizen has been hugely popular for the same reason: “First ladies are almost always popular (the only recent exception being Clinton herself, a problem she solved by removing herself from the partisan spotlight), and it’s why even hated former presidents like Jimmy Carter and George W. Bush recover their popularity” when they leave office.
From the moment President Obama selected Clinton as his first secretary of State, and thus elevated her above the partisan fray, old Republican foes warmed to her, praising the choice and even using her to attack Obama. Clinton’s popularity peaked in early 2011, just after Republicans took control of the House and initiated the first debt-ceiling standoff, and then again as Clinton was stepping down and leaving government altogether.
But staying out of politics is obviously not something Clinton can do as she gets back into politics, so her numbers are bound to fall no matter how well she plays her cards before they settle at a more natural point.
Republicans have already stepped up their attacks in recent weeks, and Clinton has started weighing in on the political fights du jour, such as when she said in Chicago on Wednesday morning that Cantor lost because his tea-party opponent “basically ran against immigrants.”
Just because the correction is inevitable doesn’t mean it won’t be painful. Clinton will have to endure rounds of media speculation, stoked by Republicans, that the American people are rejecting her, or that she’s mortally wounded herself with a number of missteps. “The more she reminds people [of herself], the more she will drop,” Republican National Committee spokesman Sean Spicer tweeted in response to today’s Gallup Poll.
Her allies have long feared that the press will “turn on” Clinton, and the winds indeed seemed to shift a bit on the first day of her media blitz, as rosy stories about, say, her guilty pleasure (chocolate), gave way to more incredulous dispatches from her meticulously controlled campaign-like event and hard-nosed analysis about her gaffes.
As things get even worse, Clinton may ask herself if another run is really worth it.
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Just after President Obama finished his address to the DNC, Hillary Clinton walked out on stage to join him, so the better could share a few embraces, wave to the crowd—and let the cameras capture all the unity for posterity.
In a speech that began a bit like a State of the Union address, President Obama said the "country is stronger and more prosperous than it was" when he took office eight years ago. He then talked of battling Hillary Clinton for the nomination in 2008, and discovering her "unbelievable work ethic," before saying that no one—"not me, not Bill"—has ever been more qualified to be president. When his first mention of Donald Trump drew boos, he quickly admonished the crowd: "Don't boo. Vote." He then added that Trump is "not really a plans guy. Not really a facts guy, either."
Tim Kaine introduced himself to the nation tonight, devoting roughly the first half of his speech to his own story (peppered with a little of his fluent Spanish) before pivoting to Hillary Clinton—and her opponent. "Hillary Clinton has a passion for children and families," he said. "Donald Trump has a passion, too: himself." His most personal line came after noting that his son Nat just deployed with his Marine battalion. "I trust Hillary Clinton with our son's life," he said.
Michael Bloomberg said he wasn't appearing to endorse any party or agenda. He was merely there to support Hillary Clinton. "I don't believe that either party has a monopoly on good ideas or strong leadership," he said, before enumerating how he disagreed with both the GOP and his audience in Philadelphia. "Too many Republicans wrongly blame immigrants for our problems, and they stand in the way of action on climate change and gun violence," he said. "Meanwhile, many Democrats wrongly blame the private sector for our problems, and they stand in the way of action on education reform and deficit reduction." Calling Donald Trump a "dangerous demagogue," he said, "I'm a New Yorker, and a know a con when I see one."
Vice President Biden tonight called President Obama "one of the finest presidents we have ever had" before launching into a passionate defense of Hillary Clinton. "Everybody knows she's smart. Everybody knows she's tough. But I know what she's passionate about," he said. "There's only one person in this race who will help you. ... It's not just who she is; it's her life story." But he paused to train some fire on her opponent "That's not Donald Trump's story," he said. "His cynicism is unbounded. ... No major party nominee in the history of this country has ever known less."