There’s a scene in the first Madagascar movie–the animated film–where a group of penguins are staging a breakout from the zoo. In order to cover their covert activity from the prying eyes of human visitors, the lead penguin advises his comrades, “Just smile and wave boys, smile and wave.”
That’s a pretty good analogy for Hillary Clinton’s campaign for President thus far. She may have an army of highly-paid staffers working with all the diligence of military-minded penguins, but Hillary herself is mostly just smiling and waving for the cameras.
In fact, her checking out from real campaigning is measurable. The Washington Post created a clock which measures the minutes since Hillary last answered a question from the media. Currently the clock is at 24,547 minutes, which is just over two weeks. What happened to the candidate who was going to start engaging after her re-launch on Roosevelt Island just a couple weeks ago? Instead, Hillary is once again in hiding, but it’s a strategy that polling suggests is not working for her.
When Clinton launched her campaign for President back in April, she had relatively high favorability and ubiquitous name recognition. This, combined with the fact that she had no serious challenger on her left, meant she really didn’t have to do much but coast. And that’s exactly what she did. In the first 31 days of her campaign, she made a few tightly controlled appearances with hand-picked Democrats but only answered 13 questions from real reporters.
But that’s not the situation she’s in any more. Socialist Bernie Sanders is closing in on Hillary in Iowa. He has already surpassed her with the liberal base of the party and is now making substantial inroads among women voters as well. This chart by Phillip Bump based on Quinnipiac polling shows the trend:
Hillary’s drop owes something to there being a somewhat credible alternative who excites the party’s hard left core, but it also probably has a lot to do with voter’s sense of embarrassment. No one wants to support a candidate they do not believe is truthful or trustworthy. Sanders may be unpolished, but at least he is earnest. Hillary has been shown to be a money-grubbing fraud, and her campaign and, most importantly, the candidate herself, don’t seem to have much to say about it.
The only way for Hillary to improve her worsening situation is to come out from the undisclosed location where she is kept between appearances and try to answer the many outstanding questions about her Foundation, her email server, her husband’s lucrative speeches, and her dubious achievements as Secretary of State. Those questions remain outstanding because, as noted above, she has refused to answer them. But not answering is not making them go away. To consider just one example, it appears the claims she made about her homebrew email server a few months ago were not accurate. She is going to have to come up with new answers if she wants the issue to fade rather than fester.
Hillary’s camp has been saying that she would run as the underdog not the candidate of inevitability. But underdogs press the flesh and meet the press. They don’t get to take two weeks off between questions. Hillary is running a smile and wave campaign, and the polls indicate it isn’t working for her. She has already “launched” her campaign twice, maybe the third time will be the charm.