Sanders Gaining On Clinton As Her Popularity Drops; In Statistical Tie In New Hampshire

WSJ NBC Poll July

Hillary Clinton continues to be considered the front runner for the Democratic nomination months before any votes have been cast, but her popularity continues to drop. The latest poll to show this came from NBC News/The Wall Street Journal:

The bad news for Hillary Clinton in the new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll: More Americans view her negatively than they did a month ago, revealing potential vulnerabilities for a general-election presidential contest more than a year away.

The good news for her in the poll: Clinton continues to lead the Democratic field by more than 30 points, and the favorability numbers for two of the top Republicans are even worse than hers.

Just 37 percent of all Americans have a positive view of Clinton, versus 48 percent who have a negative view (-11).

That’s a sharp drop since June, when the NBC/WSJ poll showed her with a 44 percent positive, 40 negative rating (+4) – so an overall 15-point swing…

Despite Clinton’s sinking favorability rating, she continues to lead the Democratic horserace by a wide margin.

She’s the top choice of 59 percent of national Democratic primary voters, while 25 percent pick Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt. They’re followed by former Sen. Jim Webb, D-Va., and former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, who are tied at 3 percent each.

That margin, however, is smaller than her 60-point national advantage over Sanders a month ago, 75 percent to 15 percent.

If these poll findings persist (and they can change dramatically in over a year), they could indicate problems for Clinton in the general election. Democrats have hoped that any loss in support Clinton receives from the Obama coalition will be made up by more women voters backing Clinton. Now this poll shows a drop in Clinton’s support among white women.

In June, 44% of white women had a favorable view of Mrs. Clinton, compared to 43% who didn’t. In July, those numbers moved in the wrong direction for Mrs. Clinton: Only 34% of white women saw her in a positive light, compared to 53% who had a negative impression of her, the poll found.

Mr. Obama fared poorly with white women voters in the 2012 election, losing them to Republican challenger Mitt Romney by 14 points.

For Team Clinton, the latest poll numbers are a worrisome development. Mrs. Clinton is unlikely to match the African-American turnout that propelled Mr. Obama to two presidential victories, so she has to make up the difference somewhere else. Women eager to see a woman in the White House is a logical group to target. 

Support for Bernie Sanders has increased as support for Clinton has dropped, but some Democrats are searching for another alternative, with multiple stories about Joe Biden possibly running the last few days. Other names also come up occasionally, such as Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz:

The 62-year-old CEO has been urged by supporters to join the Democratic primary, with friends “thinking the time is right for someone who’s not a political lifer,” according to Maureen Dowd’s latest New York Times column. The idea, Dowd postulates, could “be a tempting proposition” for Schultz, and offers a worthy party back-up to Clinton should something unforeseen happen to her candidacy…

It would mark a shift for Schultz if he does enter the presidential ring. In an interview with Time in February, Schultz was adamant that he would not run for President in 2016: “I don’t think that is a solution. I don’t think it ends well,” he said in the story. He threw a cautious endorsement of Clinton, saying he was content to “see what Hillary does.”

Schultz has long been vocal about the role of government and its failure in addressing the nation’s pressing issues. In 2013, Schultz started a Starbucks-led petition to end the government shutdown, and delivered more than 2 million signatures to the White House in their “Come Together” campaign. While promoting his book For Love of Country, Schultz talked about the lack of leadership from the U.S. government and politicians: “The country is longing for leadership and for truth with a capital T,” he told Dowd in a New York Times story.

The current success of Donald Trump in the Republican race raises the questions if an outsider such as Schultz could receive comparable support in the Democratic race. On the other hand, the Democrats might already have a potentially successful outsider in Bernie Sanders. Sanders has many of the benefits of an outsider, while also could be seen as a credible candidate for president after having served in Congress for twenty-five years, with a record including opposition to the Iraq war and the Patriot Act. Despite Clinton’s (diminishing) lead nationally,  Sanders is now in a statistical tie with Hillary Clinton in New Hampshire. Victories in both Iowa and New Hampshire might quickly put an end to Clinton’s lead in the national polls.

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Endorsements For Bernie Sanders & Speculation About Joe Biden

Sanders Endorsement Ben Cohen

Bernie Sanders has landed a huge endorsement–from Ben Cohen, co-founder of Ben & Jerry’s. ABC News reports:

Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders has landed the sweetest food endorsement so far of the 2016 election cycle: Ben Cohen, the co-founder of Ben & Jerry’s.

The ice cream magnate spoke Sunday to a gymnasium of supporters in Franklin, New Hampshire, telling them “as a person who has been his constituent for the last 30 years, I can tell you: this guy is the real thing.”

In an interview with ABC News, Cohen explained his involvement.

“Finally, there’s a politician worth working for,” he said with a grin. “So I’m working for him.”

Bernie Sanders Ben & Jerrys Ice Cream

Friends of the Earth Action also endorsed Sanders on Saturday:

“He has proven himself a bold and fearless voice for the planet,” said Friends of the Earth Action President Erich Pica. “Sen. Sanders’ bold ideas and real solutions to addressing climate change, inequality and promoting a transformative economy that prioritizes public health and the environment over corporate profits, have earned him an enthusiastic endorsement from Friends of the Earth Action.”

Hillary Clinton received a ton of endorsements from party regulars who have a poor memory for eight years ago back when her nomination was considered to be inevitable. There is talk that some are now questioning their decision after seeing how poor a job Clinton is doing as a campaigner, how she is being damaged by scandals, and how support for her is rapidly falling. This includes polls showing that a majority do not find her trustworthy, and that she is doing poorly in the battleground states.

Hillary Clinton is rapidly becoming out of place in a Democratic Party which is becoming far more an Elizabeth Warren party than the old Bill Clinton/Triangulation/DLC Party. Being an outsider from the Democratic establishment is one of Bernie Sanders’ greatest strengths as a general election candidate, but such an outsider will have a real uphill battle for the nomination.

Maureen Dowd reminded readers in Sunday’s column that Beau Biden urged his father to run for president before dying. This got many people all excited, as those who are starting to panic about the prospects of a tainted Hillary Clinton running in the general election realized that there is an establishment candidate available.

Biden would be yet another candidate running to the left of Hillary Clinton. While this means he might divide the liberal vote and help Clinton, there is also a strong likelihood he could divide the establishment vote and help Sanders. I see this as win-win.

It would be great if his entry helps Sanders win. On the other hand, if it turns out that the Democratic establishment is too powerful to allow this, Biden would be far preferable to Clinton. Besides being a stronger campaigner and far more fit ethically to be president than Clinton, there are issues which do separate them. While both were wrong to vote to authorize force in Iraq, Clinton pushed for war far more strongly, including making false claims of ties between Saddam and al Qaeda. Biden often opposed Clinton’s push for greater military intervention when Secretary of State. Plus Biden is far more liberal on social issues. Biden did not join up with the religious right as Clinton did in the Senate, and it was Biden who pushed Obama to “evolve” on same-sex marriage.

Howard Fineman has a list of seven reasons why Biden might run. The most interesting is the second:

2. The Clintons

The vice president had a mostly cordial relationship with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and his longtime role as a champion of women’s rights amplifies his appreciation for the former first lady.

But, privately, he looks down on what he regards as a political/money-making machine. He sees the Clintons as far more interested in cash and clout than in doing good. “They’re everything he hates about the way politics operates today,” said one friend.

Biden may conclude that he is the only person in the party who can stop a Clinton return to the White House. If he enters the race, he will at least further complicate Hillary’s already dreary slog towards the Democratic nomination.

Sanders was asked by ABC News what he thought of Biden entering the race:

Presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders said he’s “very fond” of Vice President Joe Biden, but that “the American people… want to go beyond conventional establishment politics.”

We are seeing a desire for someone outside of the conventional establishment in both parties as support soars for Bernie Sanders among the Democrats and Donald Trump among the Republicans. Of course only one of these two men would make an acceptable president.

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Sanders Defends Planned Parenthood While Clinton Throws Them Under The Bus

Planned Parenthood Supporters

Bernie Sanders, as opposed to Hillary Clinton, has defended the recent attacks on Planned Parenthood as “part of a long-term smear campaign by people who want to deny women in this country the right to control their own bodies.” His full statement follows in response to Republican efforts to stop government spending on Planned Parenthood.

“The attempt by Senate Republicans to cut off support for Planned Parenthood is an attack on women’s health.  Stripping funding for Planned Parenthood would punish the 2.7 million Americans, especially low-income women, who rely on its clinics for affordable, quality health care services including cancer prevention, STI and HIV testing and general primary health care services.

“The current attempt to discredit Planned Parenthood is part of a long-term smear campaign by people who want to deny women in this country the right to control their own bodies.

“Let’s be clear: Federal funding for Planned Parenthood does not pay for abortions. The vast majority of government funding that Planned Parenthood receives is through Medicaid reimbursements.  Cutting that funding will be devastating to the health needs of millions of women who desperately need the quality services Planned Parenthood provides.”

In contrast, Clinton has once again played into the hands of the right wing by calling the videos “disturbing” and calling for a national investigation.

Abortion opponents  are using illegally obtained tapes to falsely claim that Planned Parenthood is selling fetal tissue obtained during abortions, which would be illegal. Their  tapes actually show negotiations over nominal fees for preservation and transportation of the tissue for biomedical research, which is totally different from selling the tissue, and which is both legal and conventional in health care.

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White House Threatens To Veto Bills Defunding Planned Parenthood; Huckabee Threatens To Send In Troops To Prevent Abortions

Planned Parenthood

There were two threats related to abortion in the news today. While Hillary Clinton looks willing to throw Planned Parenthood under the bus for political gain, the White House is showing why I backed Obama over Clinton in 2008. From The Hill:

The White House on Friday threatened a veto on any bill that defunds Planned Parenthood.

A budget measure that strips funding from the organization “is certainly something that would draw a presidential veto,” press secretary Josh Earnest said.

“We have routinely opposed the inclusion of ideologically driven riders” in budget bills, Earnest added.

The White House spokesman questioned the authenticity of the recordings and pointed to criticism they have received from media organizations.

“I haven’t seen the videos, but those who have taken a close look at them have raised some significant concerns about their authenticity and whether or not they actually convey the view of those particular officials or even the broader institution,” Earnest said.

On Thursday, Earnest said the “fraudulent way” the videos were released means there is “not a lot of evidence” that Planned Parenthood violated any laws.

Abortion opponents claim that Planned Parenthood is selling fetal tissue obtained during abortions, which is illegal. Their illegally obtained tapes actually show negotiations over nominal fees for preservation and transportation of the tissue for biomedical research, which is totally different from selling the tissue, and which is legal. Fees for transportation of medical specimens is customary, such as when Medicare or private insurance companies pay me to place cervical cells in preservatives and transport the specimen after doing a pap smear on a patient.

An article at Slate describes the importance of using fetal cells in medical research. This is the real pro-life position.

An investigation of Planned Parenthood ordered by Republican Governor Mike Pence in Indiana cleared Planned Parenthood of any wrongdoing after the videos were released.

Mike Huckabee has taken opposition to abortion to a new level, threatening to not only disregard the Supreme Court, but possibly send in troops:

Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee indicated Thursday that if elected, he wouldn’t rule out employing federal troops or the Federal Bureau of Investigation to stop abortion from taking place in the United States.

Though the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against bans on abortion, Huckabee said past presidents have defied Supreme Court rulings.

Jesse Choper, professor emeritus of public law at the University of California-Berkeley School of Law, said in a phone interview Friday that Huckabee’s statement was “way off-base,” adding, “it does rival Donald Trump.”

“I think he’d better more carefully examine what he’s saying, because it is totally unprecedented,” Choper said Friday.

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Distrust Of Clinton By Independents Makes Her Vulnerable In General Election

CNN Clinton Trust Issue

Things are not going well for Hillary Clinton when she is compared to Donald Trump, such as in this op-ed at ABC News by Matthew Dowd entitled, Canary in Coal Mine: Trouble Ahead for Poll Leaders Trump and Clinton. The view is that the candidate leading the polls for both parties looks like a loser. The difference is that Donald Trump is still considered by many to be unable to win the Republican nomination, and looks like he will lose badly if he does make it to the general election. Hillary Clinton remains in a strong position to win the Democratic nomination, but now looks to be in considerable danger of losing the general election (unless she is fortunate enough to be up against Donald Trump).

This is based upon the the latest Quinnipiac poll, the most recent in a recent string of poor polling results for Clinton. Some of the points in the poll stressed by Dowd:

1. As we have seen previously, the electorate is incredibly polarized, with Republicans and Democrats lining up nearly unanimously with their parties’ candidates for House, Senate and president. You only see 1% or 2% defection to the opposing party. As I have written recently, it is Independents who will decide next year’s election outcome, and as of today they are slightly leaning voting Republican up and down the ballot — except for Trump, who they are opposed to in the general election.

2. Hillary Clinton’s unfavorable rating today is a net negative 11 points, and among Independents it is a net negative 18 points. She started out the campaign in March with a positive net of 3 points so she has deteriorated badly in the course of four months. Trump today has a disastrous net negative favorable rating of minus 32 points overall and among Independents.

3. Hillary is viewed as not honest and trustworthy by an amazing 57% of the country and by 62% of Independents. The opinion of Trump is just as bad, being viewed by 58% as not trustworthy. This is a difficult platform for either to run a campaign from if they don’t fix it, and even more problematic in attempting to govern the country if they were to win.

4. And on the very important quality of “cares about needs and problems of average people” (which Democrats always seem to score well on), 52% say Hillary doesn’t. And 63% say Trump doesn’t care about needs and problems of regular voters. Again, this is a deep flaw that both retain going into this election cycle.

5. So why are they ahead in their respective primaries and what does this mean? Much is driven by name identification as well as the lack of a true dominant counter force in their primaries. But keep in mind voter support is a lagging indicator of this race, and the leading indicators to watch are likability, qualities of connection, and trustworthiness. They are the canaries in the coal mine signaling problems ahead. Hillary and Trump are very vulnerable to being beaten — Hillary more likely in the general election, Trump in the primary because of the different bases of support.

Hopefully if Democrats begin to understand how vulnerable Clinton is to being defeated in the general election in time this will lead to the selection of a better candidate.

Part of the reason that Clinton is distrusted is the evasive way in which she answers questions, with non-answers such as “If it’s undecided when I become president, I will answer your question.” The problem has been exacerbated by the email scandals. The latest addition to the long list of questions about Clinton’s conduct is whether she was sending classified information over her private server. McClatchy took a closer look at this story:

“Even if Secretary Clinton or her aides didn’t run afoul of any criminal provisions, the fact that classified information was identified within the emails is exactly why use of private emails . . . is not supposed to be allowed,” said Bradley Moss, a Washington attorney who specializes in national security matters. “Both she and her team made a serious management mistake that no one should ever repeat.”

McClatchy also has determined some details of the five emails that the intelligence community’s inspector general has described as classified and improperly handled.

Intelligence officials who reviewed the five classified emails determined that they included information from five separate intelligence agencies, said a congressional official with knowledge of the matter…

In documents that were publicly released, Intelligence Community Inspector General I. Charles McCullough III said State Department officials had warned that there were “potentially hundreds of classified emails” on Clinton’s private server…

State Department officials routinely gather and report diplomatic information that “in an intelligence context could be read very differently,” said Fitzpatrick, the director of the Information Security Oversight Office at the National Archives.

Government employees with access to classified information are trained to identify classified information, Fitzpatrick said.

“The requirement to mark is so that you know it when you see it,” he said. “Failure to observe any of the requirements for marking or safeguarding would be in a category known as a security violation.”

Failing to properly mark information as classified would not necessarily result in criminal charges, he said.

The matter would be far more serious if it were to turn out that there were hundreds of classified emails.

Clinton and the State Department are also in more hot water with a federal judge over using her personal server to evade Freedom of Information Act requests for information from AP and other news organizations, and for the considerable delays in the release of the requested emails.

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Hillary Clinton Avoids Taking A Stand On Keystone XL Pipeline & Once Again Undermines Fight For Reproductive Rights

Sanders on Clinton Keystone XL

“If it’s undecided when I become president, I will answer your question.” –Hillary Clinton

One reason why Hillary Clinton is dropping in the polls and Bernie Sanders is climbing is that voters prefer a more open and honest candidate such as Sanders. Hillary Clinton has practiced triangulation to avoid taking a stand on controversial issues throughout her career, and we saw it again this week on the Keystone XL  Pipeline and Planned Parenthood.

While at times Clinton appeared to support the pipeline in the past, since this has become a risky position in Democratic primaries she has avoided answering questions on the subject. We got a classic Hillaryism with her latest response to the question: “If it’s undecided when I become president, I will answer your question.”

Chris Cillizza tore Clinton apart for this line:

When you are running for president — whether or not you served in the current administration — you are going to be asked to take positions on issues that the current president is dealing with. As long as we hold elections that begin two years (or more) before the current president is set to leave office, that’s going to be a thing candidates need to contend with. If Clinton’s position is that she can’t take a public stance on any issue that has some sort of pending business before this White House, then she’s not going to be able to take a position on, well, anything.

And she’s already shown that on some issues, she is willing to take a position. Clinton came out in favor of the Iran deal, for example, despite the fact that its fate remains up in the air in Congress.

Second, the whole point of a campaign is for voters to get to know the candidates and understand what their respective presidencies might look like. People and reporters and the candidates you are running against ask you questions. You answer them — most of the time. It’s what we do. It’s how voters can feel as though they are making an informed decision come Election Day.

Imagine if Jeb Bush, when asked about the immigration problem in the country, said only: “Look, it’s a complex issue. I am not going to say anything about it until I am in the White House.” There would be massive outrage — and rightly so. Bush would be accused of obfuscating for purely political reasons. Which, of course, would be what he was doing.

Beyond the question of the Keystone XL Pipeline, Clinton has received criticism from environmentalists for her support for off-shore drilling and fracking. It is also doubtful that she would take effective action on climate change considering the amount of money she receives from the petroleum industry.

Clinton also tried to triangulate on the Planned Parenthood videos, leading to headlines such as Hillary Clinton Calls Planned Parenthood Videos ‘Disturbing’

Hillary Clinton has staunchly defended Planned Parenthood in the wake of recently released videos that an anti-abortion group claims to show employees with the organization discussing the sale of aborted fetal tissue.

But, in a new interview, she calls the graphic videos “disturbing” and says there should be a national investigation into that practice.

“I have seen pictures from them and obviously find them disturbing,” the Democratic presidential candidate told the New Hampshire Union Leader on Tuesday in regards to the videos, which were released by the anti-abortion group Center for Medical Progress. “Planned Parenthood is answering questions and will continue to answer questions.”

She did also defend Planned Parenthood in general, but undermined them in fighting off the right wing attacks with statements such as this. As I discussed previously, right wing organizations with a history of distorting the facts are used the tapes to present a false claim that Planned Parenthood is selling fetal tissue. In reality, the tapes show that they were negotiating over fees for collection, preservation, and transport of fetal tissue which was donated for biomedical research.  This is both legal and conventional. It is no different than when I do a pap smear and Medicare or private insurance companies pay me for collecting and arranging transport of the specimen to a lab. This does not mean that I am “selling” cervical cells and  Planned Parenthood is not “selling” fetal tissue. With Republicans using this false attack to threaten to cut off funding for Planned Parenthood, Clinton should be defending them on this point, not calling it “disturbing” and calling for a national investigation into a practice which is fully legal.

Clinton continued to undermine abortion rights in saying, “I have said for more than 22 years that abortion should be legal, safe and rare.” Reproductive rights advocates such as Katha Pollitt in her book Pro: Reclaiming Abortion Rights, have criticized this statement for reducing the status of abortion rights and  stigmatizing women who do have abortions. Jessica Valenti has written, “Agreeing with anti-choice activists on even that single word hurts women and the cause of reproductive rights.” Clinton has also upset defenders of womens’ rights in the past with her support for parental notification laws.  This is just a small part of Clinton’s tendency to compromise liberal principles, often siding with the religious right on social/cultural issues.

Update: The Hill reports, Clinton’s habit of dodging key issues draws Democrats’ fire:

Even Democrats who are not Sanders partisans are concerned about Clinton’s sometimes-opaque comments on the campaign trail.

“What people are looking for is to know what’s in her heart,” said strategist Jamal Simmons.

Further fueling concern are a number of recent polls that have shown Clinton performing very poorly when voters are asked about her honesty and trustworthiness. Last week, a Quinnipiac poll showed Coloradans asserting by an almost 2-1 margin that Clinton was not honest or trustworthy: 62 percent said she was not, whereas only 34 percent she was. Respondents in Iowa distrusted Clinton 59 percent to 33 percent, and those in Virginia distrusted her 55 percent to 39 percent.

Keystone is far from the only issue on which Clinton has bobbed and weaved.

On the minimum wage, a key issue for many liberals, she has backed a minimum of $15 an hour for fast food workers in New York but has not stipulated a nationally mandated figure.

She avoided taking an unequivocal position on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) even as the related debate over fast-track trade authority roiled Congress last month — and her position remains unclear.

Additional examples of Clinton’s habit of trying to avoid taking positions on the issues were also noted in the article.

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Hillary Clinton Gave An Iowa House Party And The Guests Preferred Bernie Sanders

Clinton House Party

We’ve heard about the huge numbers turning out for campaign rallies for Bernie Sanders. They are also turning out for house parties–including one put on by the Clinton campaign. The New York Times had an article on Hillary Clinton building her Iowa organization entitled, Stung in 2008, Hillary Clinton Builds a Formidable Team in Iowa. It looks like there is danger she will be “stung” again in 2016, with many at a recent house party for Clinton saying they prefer Sanders:

The careful, ground-up organizing seems designed to counter the kind of threat to Mrs. Clinton that has emerged from Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, whose hard-left policies have inspired huge crowds at rallies. Many at the Clinton house party in Newton said Mr. Sanders was the candidate they were most drawn to. “I like everything he says,” said Dean Lane, who farms 1,800 acres of corn and soybeans.

“I’m a pretty wealthy farmer,” he added. “I think it’s ridiculous the way we treat poor people. Nobody wants to pay a dime in taxes.”

Few of the 45 in attendance signed the Clinton commitment cards or said they were ready to volunteer for her.

Amid the generous pouring of rosé and trays of local Maytag blue cheese, the house party seemed likely to leave a lasting glow with attendees when the time came to choose between Mrs. Clinton and an alternative. Ms. Mueller considered it a success because she had met many people she intended to contact over and over until the caucuses next year.

The challenge for Mr. Sanders, who is months behind Mrs. Clinton in organizing in Iowa, is to channel the passion of the many who turn out to hear him speak into a campaign infrastructure. His campaign says it has hired 33 organizers and also has 10 field offices in Iowa.

“The misconception is that there’s not organizing going on around” the impressive crowds, said Pete D’Alessandro, the campaign coordinator for Mr. Sanders in Iowa.

A third Democratic candidate, former Gov. Martin O’Malley of Maryland, plans to hire staff “across the state” by the end of the summer, his Iowa director, Jake Oeth, announced in a recent memo. In addition, a “super PAC” supporting Mr. O’Malley, Generation Forward, is gearing up to “knock on doors across Iowa soon,” according to its Facebook page.

Clinton still has the lead, but Sanders has the momentum–and the hearts and minds of many Democratic voters.

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The New Conventional Wisdom: Hillary Clinton Can Lose

Gallup Clinton Sanders July 2015

Not long ago the conventional wisdom was that Hillary Clinton was the inevitable Democratic candidate for president for the 2016 election. After bad polling data and unfavorable publicity, the conventional wisdom is starting to shift with some political writers starting to talk about Clinton being defeatable. Chris Cillizza pointed out poor results for Clinton in four recent polls, noting that while it was expected her favorability would drop in a political campaign, the magnitude of her fall is significant:

But, if Clinton’s sinking poll numbers were to be expected as she re-entered the arena, the pace of their drop and the depths to which they have fallen are surprising. Looking at the national numbers, Clinton’s favorable numbers have come close to collapsing over the past eight months or so; her unfavorable numbers in Iowa and New Hampshire are, without exaggeration, near Trump-ian levels — and that’s a very bad thing considering they are the first two states that will cast votes in the primaries and two key swing states in the general election…

My working theory is that Clinton not only returned to the political world but also did so in the least desirable way possible for people who were already predisposed not to like her: Riding a series of stories about her e-mails and the Clinton Foundation donors.

Clinton has had a remarkably bad run of press since she officially became a candidate — punctuated by the now-almost-a-week-long focus on the investigations into whether or not she sent classified materials from her private e-mail address. To date there have only really been two storylines surrounding Clinton in the presidential contest: 1) How she is inevitable as the Democratic nominee, and 2) How her past dealings at the State Department (and after it) are problematic for her presidential campaign.

Neither of those storylines work in Clinton’s favor when it comes to the Republicans and independents with whom she has lost ground. The lack of a series primary fight drives the coronation idea which independents blanch at, and the focus on her e-mails and donations to the Clinton Foundation remind unaffiliated voters and Republicans of all the things they didn’t like about the Clintons back in the 1990s. One thing that isn’t problematic for Clinton is her standing among Democrats, which, as the chart above shows, have stayed not only consistent but consistently high not only nationally but in early states too.

Which leads to the question: How much does Clinton’s unpopularity really matter?

After discussing this issue further, he concluded (emphasis mine):

For Clinton, these polls argue that she may be hard pressed to win a traditional presidential election in which likability matters most. To get to the White House, Clinton almost certainly needs to turn the choice into one about experience and readiness to do the job at hand. If it’s a popularity contest, these early returns suggest she will lose.

The possibility that Clinton would make a poor candidate in the general election could change the willingness of many Democrats to hand her the nomination.

Mark Halparin looked more closely at the  dangers to Clinton posed by Bernie Sanders in writing, Hillary Clinton’s Bernie Sanders Problem Is Bigger Than Anyone Realizes. Well, maybe not bigger than anyone realizes. I’m finding many liberal Democrats who are increasingly confident that Bernie can win the nomination, and that he will make a stronger general election candidate than Clinton. Halparin concentrated more on how Sanders could create problems for Clinton, but the more he creates problems for Clinton, it becomes more likely that, as in 2008, she might be defeated for the nomination.

Ron Brownstein provides a look at what the media narrative on the email scandal can be in an article entitled, Parsing Clinton: What Is She Hiding?Her slippery defense of the email scandal requires a Clintonologist.

Clinton has put herself in a box. She can either hand the server over to an independent third party, who would protect her private email and our government’s working email. Or she can stonewall.

The latter course gives every voter the right—and every self-respecting journalist the responsibility—to ask, “What were you hiding, Hillary?”

What are you hiding?

Even Democratic voters who are now in denial that this is a serious scandal might began to worry about this before the convention.

As I said above, many liberals are more optimistic about Sanders’ chances. H. A. Goodman wrote at Huffington Post last month, Why Bernie Sanders Will Become the Democratic Nominee and Defeat Any Republican in 2016:

What gives Hillary Clinton a better chance of winning states like Ohio (Brookings has a study titledDid Manufacturing Job Losses Hold the Midwest Back) than Bernie Sanders? Unlike Sanders, Hillary was for the TPP and voters weary of China and Vietnam taking jobs away from Americans will think twice about Hillary Clinton.

Also, communities around the country hit by the repercussions of American counterinsurgency wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, where close to 7,000 Americans died, over 50,000 wounded in combat, and over 900,000 injured, will think twice about voting for Hillary Clinton after her Iraq War vote. Bernie Sanders, however, was on the right side of history with Iraq and Afghanistan, he’s always against horrible trade agreements, supported gay marriage and marijuana legalization (Hillary was against even the decriminalization of marijuana not long ago) and championed a range of other issues.

In other words, the electoral map shows that Bernie Sanders is not only a realistic candidate for president, but his record on a number of issues speaks to a wide range of voters. If Democrats simply vote based on their value system (considering demographic shifts favor Democrats), Bernie Sanders can easily win the presidency. If they nominate Hillary Clinton out of despair, thinking this is still 1999, then email scandals and an Iraq War vote could mitigate any advantages a Democratic challenger has over Jeb Bush or another Republican.

After recent polls came out, Goodman wrote, Reason #1 to Vote Bernie: Sanders Does ‘Better Than Clinton’ Against GOP in Swing States:

It’s believed by some people that Clinton is the only way for Democrats to win the White House. However, this mentality ignores the key issue of trust and how this sentiment will decide the presidential election. For example, Quinnipiac states that, “For 38 percent of Ohio voters, honesty is the top quality in a candidate.” The belief system stating only Clinton can beat a GOP challenger also ignores the recent finding from Quinippiac that reads, “In several matchups in Iowa and Colorado, another Democratic contender, U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, runs as well as, or better than Clinton against Rubio, Bush and Walker.”

Furthermore, the number one reason for Democrats to vote for Bernie Sanders in 2016 is that swing states are already moving away from Clinton (in search of more honest candidates like Sanders) and Election Day is just over 470 days away. If Bernie Sanders has gone from an impossibility, to drawing crowds of thousands, and now running “as well as, or better than Clinton against Rubio, Bush, and Walker,” then imagine the political world 470 days from now…

Ultimately, in terms of trust, nobody has ever accused Bernie Sanders of being untrustworthy; in fact his honesty at times has been seen as a political liability. If polls had once convinced some voters that Sanders couldn’t win, these same polls should now illuminate a rapidly changing political evolution in key swing states. Quinnipiac recently stated “Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is behind or on the wrong side of a too-close-to-call result in matchups with three leading Republican contenders.” Those words, as well as the finding that “U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, runs as well as, or better than Clinton against Rubio, Bush and Walker,” should be the number one reason to vote for the Vermont Senator in 2016.

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Clinton Denies Sending Classified Information From Private Server

Clinton Email Classified

Following reports that two Inspectors General have requested an investigation regarding the possibility of Hillary Clinton having sent classified email from her private server, Clinton has denied the accusations. Politico reports:

Hillary Clinton said she is confident none of the emails she sent or received using her private email server while secretary of state contained information that was classified when she sent them.

Clinton, speaking to reporters Saturday after a presidential campaign event here, said she has “no idea” which are the four emails an inspector general review has determined were classified “secret” at the time.

“I am confident I never sent nor received any information that was classified at the time it was sent and received,” Clinton said. “What I think you’re seeing is a very typical kind of discussion to some extent, disagreement among various parts of the government over what should or what should not be publicly released.”

Having followed this scandal closely, I believe Clinton might be telling the truth on this one point, but the current reports do raise serious concerns. Whether or not Clinton was telling the truth on this point, her subsequent statements  were misleading when she discussed the entire issue. Whether or not she did knowingly send classified email, this does not change the fact that Clinton violated the rules in effect in 2009. It does not change the fact that she destroyed around 30,000 email messages and edited others, which includes email related to Libya and Terrorism and was not personal email as she previously claimed

The fact checking sites have repeatedly stated that Clinton’s statements have been false regarding the email on many other points. The Washington Post Fact Checker has given Clinton and her defenders Three Pinocchios for their claims on at least two separate occasions (here and here). The top Freedom of Information Act official at the Justice Department has stated that Clinton was in violation of the rules and the State Department’s top Freedom of Information Act officer has called her use of a private server unacceptable.

Clinton has also been criticized for being deceptive when she said at her press conference that none of the email was classified. This very well might technically be true, however the statement was considered deceptive as the email she sent did include sensitive email.

We do know that some of the email was reclassified as classified when reviewed by the State Department after she turned it over. This by itself does not indicate any wrong-doing by Clinton. The question is whether she was careless and sent email which she should have known should be classified. The reports that at least four email messages which were classified at the time were sent by Clinton raises further questions. An investigation of this is complicated by the fact that she has destroyed so much of the email. If it is verified that she did send four or more emails which were classified at the time we may have a much more serious situation.

As I said, my gut feeling is that, while Clinton did many things wrong related to her exclusive use of a private server, she very well might not have knowingly sent classified email. However, while I have discounted criticism of Clinton for sending classified email in the past when raised by Republicans, the most recent reports do raise new concerns.

Regardless of whether Clinton actually did knowingly send classified email, this issue will remain alive through the election (if Clinton wins the nomination) due to Clinton having destroyed thousands of email messages and edited others. This very well might make it impossible to ever answer this question. Clinton certainly deserves no presumption of innocence on this after deleting and editing email. If I went into a malpractice suit having deleted some progress notes and editing others, this would lead to a strong presumption of guilt. Only under the Clinton Rules could Hillary delete the email, after having violated the rules, and expect people to take her word for it that she is innocent.

As a minor sidelight to this issue, some Clinton supporters are greatly exaggerating the issue of The New York Times making corrections to its original story. It is common in the internet age, when everyone is in a rush to get their stories on-line first, for some stories to later receive corrections. The initial errors in the first story, which have been corrected, have no real bearing on the overall email scandal. This in no way means that either this aspect of the story, or the larger story of the scandal, have been “debunked” as many Clinton supporter are claiming.

Update: Ron Fournier writes, Parsing Clinton: What Is She Hiding? Her slippery defense of the email scandal requires a Clintonologist.

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Gallup: Sanders Surges, Clinton Sags in U.S. Favorability

Gallup Clinton Sanders July 2015

After a round of bad polling data for Hillary Clinton, Gallup adds that Clinton’s favorability rating has fallen below her unfavorability rating, and that Bernie Sanders’ favorable score has doubled.

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’ favorable rating among Americans has doubled since Gallup’s initial reading in March, rising to 24% from 12% as he has become better known. Hillary Clinton’s rating has slipped to 43% from 48% in April. At the same time, Clinton’s unfavorable rating increased to 46%, tilting her image negative and producing her worst net favorable score since December 2007.

Sanders’ increased favorability reflects the broader increase in the public’s familiarity with him since March. Overall, 44% of Americans are able to rate him today, up from 24% in March. Not only has the percentage viewing him favorably increased, but also the percentage viewing him unfavorably has risen, up eight percentage points to 20%.

Clinton certainly continues to hold a strong lead for the Democratic nomination but the chances of being defeated have been increasing. More seriously, Clinton is increasingly looking like a weak candidate going into the general election. Sanders has been on an upward trajectory while opinions of Clinton have been on the decline, especially regarding her dishonesty.

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