Hillary Clinton is widely expected to announce her long-anticipated campaign for President next month. Her campaign may be stalling on the lauch pad, however, as voters question her exclusive use of private email as Secretary of State and, more importantly, her handling of the situation. Her support, among Democrats, has plummeted 15 points since last month, according to a new Reuters poll.
Among all Democrats, just 45 percent now say they will support her run for the White House. Among those Democrats most likely to vote in the upcoming primaries, her support is in the low 50s.
This is dangerous for Clinton because polling, at this time for Democrats, is essentially a solo contest. There are really no other credible national contenders for the Democrat nomination at this point in the campaign. Yet, around half of Democrats are reluctant to support her in the aftermath of the email controversy.
Clinton partisans have downplayed questions about her use of a personal email account, managed by her own personal computer server, as a minor issue of technology preferences. Clinton herself has tried to assure the public that all relevant “work” emails were properly archived or saved. Any deleted emails, she stated, were “personal” and related to yoga practices or plans for her daughter’s wedding. There is a certain irony that the “personal” nature of her emails were mentioned during a UN conference against sexism.
Still, the assurances from Clinton were not convincing. A large majority of Americans want an independent review of all of her email communications. Almost half of Democrats echo the call for an independent investigation. Such a profound lack of trust from voters is not a good foundation for a campaign.
More worrisome for Clinton, though, is the voter reaction to her press conference to defend her email practices. Only 22 percent of Americans, and only 32 percent of Democrats, said Clinton was thorough in her responses during the press questioning. Only 41 percent of Democrats said she was “honest” in her answers. That is better than the only 26 percent of Americans who thought she was honest, but still a sobering number of the party’s presumptive nominee.
The email controversy raises a host of questions about national security, cyber security and potential conflicts of interest between her work with foreign governments and their donations to her family foundation. Conducting sensitive State Department business where it could be subject to the prying eyes of other nations — outside the government’s strong security protections — at least raises serious questions about Clinton’s judgement.
For Clinton, though, the political problems with this controversy go far beyond even these issues. Even before her campaign has begun, her partisans are in the press debating the finer points of law and government regulation. It is yet another replay of Bill Clinton’s infamous, “it depends on what the meaning of is, is” retort to questions from an Independent Counsel.
Everything with the Clintons, it seems, is a shade complicated. It is a forever, too-cute-by-half, embracing of the line between right and wrong in a very particular way that best suites them. Having spent decades defending these very unique arrangements seems to have taken a toll on Hillary, though. Even Democrats were underwhelmed, and under convinced, by her answers during the press conference.
Her campaign for President may be ending before it has even begun.