Is the famously smart Hillary Clinton running a smart campaign? It doesn’t look like it. For starters, just as she did in 2008, Hillary Clinton is alienating the press corps – not a smart move. She is also lurching left, presumably to keep the progressive wing of her party at bay -- another questionable decision. Meanwhile, her refusal to respond to the myriad revelations about her shady foundation and dishonest email usage is tarnishing her trustworthiness. Another dumb move.
A recent piece by Jason Horowitz in The New York Times portrayed the former first lady as smugly secure in her “Clinton court,” mocking the reporters trying to cover her campaign. Clearly miffed, he describes her “defensive and not entirely convincing” press conference at which she was meant to tamp suspicions about her private email and her lack of response on “inconvenient things she does not want to talk about” – like the TPP or her views towards Israel. He describes her snapping “her head to the left in a Janet Jackson-era dance move” as she taunts reporters eager for answers.
Bottom line, when a presumed-to-be sympathetic reporter counts the number of times she nods (43) while listening to small business owners assembled at a bike shop, and groans over the cloying ever-present granddaughter, you know things are not going well. He’s not alone.
Ruth Marcus from the Washington Post – a self-described Hillary “fan” – recently wrote to complain about the “gross excessiveness” of Clinton’s “speechifying.” Others have weighed in.
Mrs. Clinton may be enjoying poking the media, but it could come back to haunt her, as it did in 2008. After months of fending off the press during that campaign and seeing reporters’ enthusiasm migrate to her younger, more open opponent, she humbled herself by boarding the press bus laden with bagels. The bagel initiative famously failed, as not one reporter accepted the offering. She doesn’t appear to have learned a thing.
Meanwhile, Hillary is veering left, supposedly to appease the progressive wing of her party. Mrs. Clinton’s recent liberal pronouncements on income inequality, immigration and college debt have been portrayed as a necessary response to the growing feistiness of progressives like Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Saunders. This explanation has quickly become conventional wisdom, but it’s unclear that the nation has embraced those extremists. Republican candidates in 2012 had to win over the Tea Party element of their own party because in 2010 the force of that emerging group was clear – it had led to the toppling of numerous established candidates, and it helped the GOP take over the House of Representatives.
What evidence is there that progressives are the pulsing heart of the Democrat party? Very few have won elections by campaigning on issues like taxing the rich or granting amnesty to people in the country illegally. An exception is New York Mayor Bill deBlasio, who has popped up as a self-appointed vox populi. He did run a populist campaign, and won by a landslide, but only 24 percent of New York’s registered voters turned out, possibly the lowest in a century.
Mrs. Clinton may fear the vitality and freshness of the progressive message -- or its messengers -- but we just held an election, which by any standards was a landslide win for Republicans. Is it reasonable to think that the country in just two years has spun around and is ready to elect an uber-liberal candidate?
On immigration, for instance, the country has responded to President Obama’s executive actions protecting undocumented inhabitants from deportation by becoming less tolerant of amnesty and more concerned about border security. An NBC poll taken late last year showed only 38 percent of the country backed Obama’s proposal, while 48 percent disapproved; support was so weak from the Hispanic community (43 percent in favor) that NBC took the rare measure of suggesting the survey not be taken seriously.
A December poll conducted by Bloomberg was especially worrisome for immigration reform activists. It showed that 56 percent of the country did not approve of Obama’s dictate, including 57 percent of all-important independents.
Clinton has upped the ante, by promising to disregard our immigration laws and demanding a full path to citizenship for those here illegally and even welcoming back some who have previously been deported. Her bold promises on immigration are widely viewed as political -- she announced her position in swing-state Nevada where, as in Florida and Colorado, Hispanic voters will be influential. Her stance also represents a turnaround from 2008, when she declined to back driver’s licenses for people in the country illegally.
For a cautious candidate, going Full Monty on immigration is a curious decision. Mr. Obama’s most recent executive action granting temporary residency to as many as 5 million here illegally has been challenged by 26 states; just yesterday the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals blocked its implementation. The measure is not only controversial, but also possibly illegal. Is Hillary smart to pick up this banner?
It seems Mrs. Clinton calculates that the eventual GOP candidate will have to tack hard right on this issue, which is far from certain. She may end up running against Marco Rubio or Jeb Bush. By comparison, she will be the extremist – a position that may not endear her to voters.
And then there are the emails, and the foundation. If Mrs. Clinton hopes that these matters will blow over – that an adoring nation will not care that she is dishonest and bends the rules, she is wrong. The polling already shows that Mrs. Clinton’s unfavorable ratings have soared, while her favorables have dropped. Today, she’s upside down--unfavorable views top favorables 48 percent to 46 percent.
That’s quite a switch from April 12, when Mrs. Clinton announced her campaign. At that time, 51 percent of voters had a favorable view of the former first lady, and 45 percent held an unfavorable impression. Six weeks in, and she has lost serious ground. As we said, maybe not such a smart campaign, after all.
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