Former secretary of state Hillary Clinton has shifted her campaign into higher gear.
She has moved from conducting nearly invisible “listening tours” in key primary states to higher profile campaign appearances. She has outlined her plans for bolstering the economy and addressing the plight of more than 11 million illegal immigrants. And in an interview last week with CNN she defended her use of personal emails while she was secretary of state and the fundraising practices of her family’s global foundation.
Yet with Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders nipping at her heels in the Democratic races in Iowa and New Hampshire, Clinton is struggling to halt a downward spiral in trust and enthusiasm for her campaign.
According to a new Associated Press-GfK poll released on Thursday, seven in 10 Democrats give Clinton positive marks, an 11-point drop from the April survey. Nearly a quarter of Democrats now say they see Clinton in an unfavorable light.
Among all poll respondents, Clinton has either lost ground or scored less than 50 percent on characteristics ranging from decisiveness and competence to compassion, inspiration and likeability.
Most troubling, perhaps, are the numbers on her credibility: Only 31 percent of adults interviewed think she’s honest, down 6 percent from her April score.
By practically any measure, the former first lady and New York senator is a formidable candidate and fundraiser who is on track to win the Democratic nomination next summer. Nationwide, she leads Sanders, Vice President Joe Biden, former Maryland governor Martin O’Malley and others with 60 percent of the Democratic vote, according to aggregate polling figures compiled by Real Clear Politics.
Yet her sinking approval ratings suggest that Republican lawmakers and presidential candidates are making headway in portraying her as a wealthy Democratic elitist who is out of touch with average Americans and who frequently cut corners as a public servant.
Clinton and her aides say it isn’t surprising that her approval ratings would dip as she comes under greater scrutiny as an active candidate. And Clinton argued during her interview with CNN that she and her husband for decades have been targets of right-wing critics.
Moreover, Clinton's bad marks weren't unique, according to the AP. Nearly all of the Republican candidates surveyed in the latest poll shared her “underwater approval ratings.” Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, a leading GOP candidate, saw his unfavorable ratings rise to 44 percent from 36 percent in April.
Even so, Clinton – with her tightly controlled campaign appearances and frequent efforts to keep reporters at bay – appears to be having trouble connecting with average voters. Another potential sign of this problem is that her campaign has been slow to harness the fundraising power of grass roots Democrats, according to The New York Times.
Of the $47.5 million her campaign raised through June 30, less than a fifth has come from donations of $200 or less, according to filings with the Federal Election Commission. That is considerably less than the grass roots fundraising of many of Clinton’s GOP and Democratic rivals – with the notable exception of Bush.
Sanders reported raising considerably less than Clinton – only about $15 million, including money transferred from his Senate campaign accounts. Yet about 80 percent of the total came from donors making contributions of $200 or less.