Hillary Clinton is far from a shoo-in for the White House, according to a New York Times “Upshot” analysis.
“Mrs. Clinton would not cruise to victory, and, yes, she could easily lose,” the Times‘s Nate Cohn frankly declares.
He notes that though the conventional wisdom after Obama’s reelection was that Clinton would be an “unusually formidable general election candidate” based on her high favorability numbers after she left the State Department, Clinton’s “popularity has already faded considerably over the last two years. Her support could erode even further as the campaign unfolds, or as she comes under new scrutiny, be it for foreign donations to the Clinton Foundation, her private email account as secretary of state or new issues.”
Cohn notes that “polls now show her favorability rating beneath 50 percent,” and “what’s notable about the recent decline in her approval rating is that it has returned to Mrs. Clinton’s apparently natural level of public support.”
“Her ratings started out high as first lady in 1993, as is often the case with that role, but dropped to the mid-40s when she pursued health reform. Her ratings surged during the Monica Lewinsky scandal, but returned to the mid-40s once she ran for Senate, and remained there through her 2008 presidential campaign. Her ratings recovered again after she withdrew from the 2008 race and was no longer active in day-to-day politics,” he notes.
Because conservative white Democrats supported Clinton over Obama toward the end of the 2008 primary season, others in the media often hype that Clinton could do better than other Democrats among a group of voters that even the Democratic National Committee conceded was leaving the party.
Largely for the same reason that Republicans have a path to the White House without embracing amnesty legislation, Cohn points out that “there is also evidence, especially in state polling, that Mrs. Clinton’s support from traditionally Democratic, white, conservative voters is unsustainable — especially in the South and Appalachia.”
“On paper, her strength among these voters is her greatest advantage over Mr. Obama. Perhaps 10 or 15 years ago, Mrs. Clinton could have run a campaign to win these white, Southern conservatives and perhaps carry Arkansas or West Virginia, two states her husband won in both of his presidential elections,” he continues. “But that strategy is untenable in today’s Democratic Party, which will demand a far more liberal candidate than conservative voters are willing to tolerate. Even if she did run a campaign to appeal to these voters, it probably wouldn’t work. In the last midterm election, formidable white Democratic candidates in the South struggled to run ahead of Mr. Obama’s performance there in 2012.”
Further, given Clinton’s past poor performances as a candidate, Cohn writes that “there is little about Mrs. Clinton’s electoral history that suggests she’s a stronger candidate than these ratings. As a Senate candidate in New York in 2000, she ran well behind Al Gore’s presidential election numbers in New York that year. Few defend her performance in the 2008 presidential primaries.”
He concludes that since Clinton’s “favorability ratings don’t resemble those of an especially strong candidate,” perhaps “the better argument for her strength would be the demographic advantages of today’s Democratic coalition.”