Sam Smith – The campaign to put Hillary Clinton in the White House is one of the oddest ones in American history. Although her actual prospects are still far from clear, there are a number of curious considerations:
It is strange to have a candidate so popular in her own party yet so controversial not only in the public’s mind but to the media as well.
A year and a half before the election she is more than 50 points ahead of all her potential Democratic opponents yet, according to our three poll moving average, could be defeated by any one of a number of GOP opponents with a shift of vote sentiment of 4 to 8 points. If this seems a safe margin, consider that in September of 2000, Gore’s average poll result went up 7.5 points over August but by November, had declined 5.7 points. In the crucial state of Florida Gore’s total varied by 7 points. As late as two weeks before the election, Gore was ahead in Florida by as much as 7-10 points.
If Jeb Bush is the Republican nominee, we will have two candidates running on the record of close relatives as well as themselves.
At present, Clinton is facing two major controversies – Benghazi and the email issue. The first is nonsensical and the second worthy of debate, but both indicate how Hillary Clinton’s campaign can be easily dominated by issues not on the preferred list of her strategists.
At present the GOP has not raised any serious issues from Hillary Clinton’s deeper past, but this may be primarily motivated by a covert desire to have her nominated and then let the fun will begin. There is, among Democrats, a stunning denial that these issues exist. Just three examples:
o Independent Counsel Robert Ray’s final report on the White House travel office case found first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton’s testimony in the matter was “factually false,” but concluded there were no grounds to prosecute her. The special prosecutor determined the first lady did play a role in the 1993 dismissal of the travel office’s staff, contrary to her testimony in the matter. The case arose after Hillary Clinton moved to oust the White House travel office in favor of World Wide Travel, Bill Clinton’s source of $1 million in fly-now-pay-later campaign trips. The White House fired seven long-term employees for alleged mismanagement and kickbacks. The director, Billy Dale, charged with embezzlement, was acquitted in less than two hours by the jury
o Deputy special prosecutor Hickman Ewing revealed that a criminal indictment against Hillary Clinton concerning Whitewater had been prepared but never presented to a grand jury.
o Hillary Clinton’s Rose law firm billing records, sought for two years by congressional investigators and the special prosecutor were finally found in the back room of the personal residence at the White House. How much work she actually did on what had become the Madison Guaranty and Castle Grande scandals was the reason the billing records were sought.
· This is not the sort of stuff a campaign likes to face, but denying its existence merely postpones the problem.
· Hillary’s ace is supposedly her appeal to women, yet one finds a curious hesitancy and concern about her among of her presumed closest constituency. For example, Molly Mirhashem in the National Journal writes: “I recently interviewed 47 young women, most in their early to mid-20s, who call themselves feminists; they talked about what feminism means to them and shared their thoughts about Clinton’s candidacy and public image. While the overwhelming majority of these women said they would likely vote for her in 2016, only about a quarter of them were enthusiastic or emphatic in their support.”
· One of the real reasons Al Gore didn’t win was Bill Clinton. As we reported at the time, “68% of voters thought Clinton would go down in history more for his scandals than for his leadership. 44% said that the scandals were somewhat to very important and 57% thought the country to be on the wrong moral track.” Bill Clinton has already become an issue in his wife’s campaign and this factor can be expected to grow.
The political denial of the Democratic Party could easily prove disastrous. One of its first effects has been to make Hillary Clinton the widely presumed nominee. But if in the next year, controversies develop that knock five to ten points off her score against GOP contenders, where does her party turn?
The weakness would lie in the failure of the party to have had a serious contest so that if one candidate flops, there is somewhere else to turn. And that new choice has had adequate impact on the general voter that you don’t have introduce a whole new choice, say, just six months before the election.
The party may have already closed the door. We don’t know because the pollsters don’t even bother to ask how O’Malley would do against, say, Rubio?
In short, the Democrats, a full year and a half before the election have essentially closed their options. And in the unpredictable world of politics that’s a hazardous thing to do.