Hillary Clinton’s primary campaign is crashing faster than even her toughest critics hoped.
Two state polls from NBC/Marist, released Sunday, show Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders is now ahead of Hillary by 11 points in New Hampshire, the first primary state. In Iowa, Hillary is still ahead of Sanders, but she only earns 38 percent of the vote among Hawkeye Democrats.
Moreover, Clinton hasn’t faced aggressive opposition from Sanders. He has made it a point of pride not to criticize Clinton on the campaign trail. He hasn’t run any negative advertising against her political record or even against the recent email scandal engulfing her campaign.
She’s losing, or losing support, even though she has high, favorable ratings among Democrats in both states. In Iowa, 67 percent of Democrats have a positive view of Clinton. In New Hampshire, 69 percent of Democrats have a favorable opinion. Her problem is that a very large number of Democrats who say they like her aren’t voting for her. If she is struggling to close the deal with Democrats who like her, she will face an almost impossible task if she is the Democrat nominee.
Democrat opinions of Clinton are far more positive than those of mainstream, unaffiliated voters. Over 60 percent of Iowa’s registered voters have an unfavorable view of Clinton. In New Hampshire, 60 percent have a negative opinion. In both states, just over 30 percent of registered voters have a favorable opinion of Clinton.
So the polling data already shows her in deep trouble for the general election. Clinton is losing to both Jeb Bush and Donald Trump in Iowa, according to the NBC/Marist general election match-up. In New Hampshire, she loses to Bush and holds just a 1-point lead over Trump. Vice-President Joe Biden, who isn’t a declared candidate, fares better against both GOP candidates in both states.
There is no plausible path to the White House for Democrats if their candidate can’t win the battleground states of Iowa and New Hampshire. The politics of the first two primary states are also “leading indicators” of national support, because those two states experience the full impact of candidate campaigning long before other states.
A Gallup survey released last week showed Clinton posting her lowest overall favorable ratings since the first years of the Clinton presidency. Only 41 percent of Americans have a favorable view of Clinton, far below her numbers when she lost the Democrat nomination to Barack Obama in 2008. Only in 1993, when she was spearheading her politically disastrous planned overhaul of the nation’s health care system, did she fare worse.
Those first few years of Clinton’s presidency were the low point in the popularity of both Hillary and Bill. Months later, Republicans would win a historic landslide, taking control of Congress for the first time in over 40 years. That Hillary Clinton is approaching the political standing of those dark days cannot be reassuring to her campaign.
Clinton’s numbers are even lower in Iowa and New Hampshire, though, despite the fact that she has been campaigning aggressively in those states. Her current 11-point deficit in New Hampshire is particularly striking because her win in that state’s primary in 2008 kept her candidacy against Barack Obama alive after a terrible 3rd place showing in Iowa.
Polls are very fluid in these very early days of the campaign. Most voters are more concerned with the waning days of summer and getting kids back to school than politics. In Iowa and New Hampshire, though, the campaigns are well underway.
Clinton’s anemic poll numbers in these states are a red flag for Democrats because they’re low even though the party faithful still generally like her. If their views about Clinton trend towards the opinion of regular voters, her campaign will collapse.