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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Two Inspectors General Request Investigation Regarding Clinton’s Use Of Private Email As Secretary Of State

Clinton Email

While Hillary Clinton clearly violated rules in effect regarding use of email as Secretary of State, despite her claims in a recent CNN interview and in her earlier press conference which have been contradicted by fact checkers, most of her actions do not place her at risk of criminal prosecution. Stricter rules were imposed in 2009 in response to abuses under the Bush administration (which Clinton included in her attacks on the Bush administration for shredding the Constitution), but actual criminal penalties were not added until the law was again updated after she left the office.

The one area where she could theoretically face criminal penalties would be if she violated laws regarding classified material. Clinton has stated that she did not use her private server for classified information, but this response is misleading as she did use it for sensitive information. The New York Times reports:

Two inspectors general have asked the Justice Department to open a criminal investigation into whether sensitive government information was mishandled in connection with the personal email account Hillary Rodham Clinton used as secretary of state, senior government officials said Thursday.

The request follows an assessment in a June 29 memo by the inspectors general for the State Department and the intelligence agencies that Mrs. Clinton’s private account contained “hundreds of potentially classified emails.” The memo was written to Patrick F. Kennedy, the under secretary of state for management.

It is not clear if any of the information in the emails was marked as classified by the State Department when Mrs. Clinton sent or received them.

But since her use of a private email account for official State Department business was revealed in March, she has repeatedly said that she had no classified information on the account.

Some of the email messages have been upgraded to classified status since they were turned over to the State Department but we don’t know if any email was classified at the time. If only occasional email was made classified after the fact this might not be evidence of any violation of the law by Clinton. The questions to be investigated would include whether any of the email was actually classified at the time it was sent, and whether Clinton sent sensitive information over her private server which she should have known should be classified at the time.

Review of her email to answer these questions complicated by the fact that Clinton has destroyed thousands of email messages, along with evidence that she deleted and edited email dealing with terrorism prior to turning it over to the State Department.

While there is currently no evidence publicly available to demonstrate that Clinton mishandled classified information, this is a separate issue from her violation of the rules regarding email, including to evade Freedom of Information Act requests for information. 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. An ambassador under Clinton was even fired with failure to abide by rules against using private email being cited as a reason by the Inspector General (pdf of report here). Buzzfeed has obtained email showing that the  top lawyer for the National Archives also expressed concern over Clinton’s use of a private server.

Further ethical concerns regarding Clinton are raised by her failure to comply with an agreement that contributions to the Clinton Foundation be disclosed when she was Secretary of State. Clinton failed to disclose over a thousand donors, including contributions from parties with business before the State Department. The Foundation also failed to disclose many of these on their tax forms and was  caught lying about this issue.

We also know that Bill Clinton saw an unprecedented increase in payments for giving speeches when Hillary became Secretary of State from organizations and countries which subsequently received favorable intervention from Clinton. His speaking fees jumped from 150,000 to typically 500,000, and as high as 750,000.

Update: Clinton Denies Sending Classified Information From Private Server. Inspectors General say four emails classified at the time were sent by Clinton over private server.

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Donald Trump Continues To Threaten To Run As Third Party Candidate

DONALD-TRUMP

Last week I pointed out that Donald Trump was refusing to rule out running as a third party candidate. Several days later The Hill  received the same response in another interview:

Donald Trump says the chances that he will launch a third-party White House run will “absolutely” increase if the Republican National Committee is unfair to him during the 2016 primary season.

“The RNC has not been supportive. They were always supportive when I was a contributor. I was their fair-haired boy,” the business mogul told The Hill in a 40-minute interview from his Manhattan office at Trump Tower on Wednesday. “The RNC has been, I think, very foolish.”

Pressed on whether he would run as a third-party candidate if he fails to clinch the GOP nomination, Trump said that “so many people want me to, if I don’t win.”

“I’ll have to see how I’m being treated by the Republicans,” Trump said. “Absolutely, if they’re not fair, that would be a factor.”

Typically primary candidates remain in the race until they drop out of money. Donald Trump differs as he will not run out of money, not being dependent upon contributions from others. He has the ability to remain in the race as long as he desires–including after the conventions are over if he should feel that the RNC has been unfair to him.

While polls continue to show Trump with a lead (which might not last much longer after his comments on John McCain) for the Republican nomination, he is also among the weakest Republican candidates in head to head match ups against Hillary Clinton. A Washington Post/ABC News poll gives a clue as to what it would mean if Trump were to run as a third party candidate:

The survey shows that in a hypothetical three-way race, Clinton is at 46 percent, Bush is at 30 percent and Trump is at 20 percent among registered voters.

Trump takes more support away from Bush than Clinton in such a contest. In a head-to-head matchup, Clinton tops Bush by 50 percent to 44 percent among registered voters.

The current polls suggest that the Republicans will lose if they nominate Trump, or if someone else wins and Trump decides to run as a third party candidate. These numbers can change quite a bit by next November, but in this poll the vast majority of the votes taken by Trump come at the expense of the Republican candidate, and I would expect that pattern to continue. Possibly the magnitude of Trump’s vote will decrease by then, but this suggests there is an excellent chance that he could take at least five to ten points from the GOP candidate, which would probably tip the balance towards the Democrats should the race become closer (as other polls suggest it might be).

The same pattern is likely to also hold should Sanders or someone else manage to beat Clinton for the Democratic nomination, or someone other than Bush be the Republican candidate. It is certainly premature to assume Bush will be the Republican nominee. If he is, the Democratic candidate might not need any help from Trump in winning if Bush keeps taking about phasing out Medicare.

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Sanders Draws Record Crowds, O’Malley Addresses Issues and Engages The Press, and Hillary Clinton Answers Questions on Facebook

Bernie Sanders Phoenix

Bernie Sanders continued to draw big crowds over the weekend. In Phoenix Sanders was once again forced to move to a larger venue, drawing twice the number originally anticipated:

Bernie Sanders drew more than 11,000 people to a rally Saturday night in downtown Phoenix — the largest crowd to date for a presidential candidate whose audiences have been swelling in recent months.

The Vermont senator, who has emerged as the leading alternative to Hillary Rodham Clinton for the Democratic nomination, got a rock-star-like reception from supporters who streamed into a cavernous lower-level room of the city’s convention center.

Aides to the self-described democratic socialist had originally booked a Phoenix theater that could accommodate fewer than half the number of people who turned out. The crowd estimate of more than 11,000 people was provided by staff at the convention center, where Sanders also appeared Saturday at a convention of progressive activists.

“Somebody told me people are giving up on the political process,” Sanders said as he greeted the crowd Saturday night. “Not what I see here tonight.”

This exceeds his previous record in Wisconsin. The appearance in Phoenix was followed by thousands coming to see him in Texas.

While Sanders has so far received the bulk of the excitement, and media coverage, from liberal opposition to Hillary Clinton, BuzzFeed seems impressed with Martin O’Malley, calling him “the candidate who simply won’t go away: who will work harder and mingle longer, who will shake more hands, answer more questions, propose more policy, be the most progressive and most aggressive — the candidate who will always engage.”

While Clinton draws headlines about her “strained relations” with the press, O’Malley’s staff rarely turns a reporter away. (On Friday night, his super PAC invited members of the media to an afterparty with the sign-carrying field organizers. “It’s open-press and we promise no rope-lines,” an official said in an email, adding a smiling emoticon. The Clinton cheer-squad, meanwhile, said they weren’t allowed to talk to reporters.)

And while other Democrats in the race, including Sanders, don’t often go after Clinton, O’Malley makes a habit of it — indirectly, at least. (In his Iowa speech, he stressed his support for a $15 minimum wage, days after Clinton declined to endorse it, and suggested she was slow to oppose “bad trade deals” like the Trans-Pacific Partnership.)

With months to go until the Iowa caucus, this aggressive campaigning might pay off, and both O’Malley and Sanders might continue to reduce Clinton’s lead.

Hillary Clinton continues to limit access to the press but did answer some questions on Facebook. After Clinton previously received criticism for saying “All Lives Matter,” and Martin O’Malley failed to learn from this mistake, himself being attacked for saying, “Black lives matter. White lives matter. All lives matter,” Clinton finally got it right on Facebook.

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Major Gaffes From Clinton and Trump Campaigns; Al Gore To The Rescue?

Members of both parties have good reason to worry about the candidates now leading in the polls. Hillary Clinton, along with other Democratic candidates, appeared in Iowa Friday night. Instead of receiving favorable coverage for what she said, the story out of Iowa is how the Clinton campaign told supporters not to speak to reporters. It is bad enough when Clinton avoids answering questions from the press, but it makes no sense to try to gag supporters. She received criticism for this on MSNBC (video above) with quotes from the coverage in The Weekly Standard:

“Here’s what struck me,” said Susan Page of USA Today, “when I read the coverage in the Des Moines Register this morning. Jennifer Jacobs, who’s been on your show, was covering this last night. Big demonstrations outside of young people for O’Malley and Hillary Clinton. She went up to the Clinton supporters — these are protesters for Clinton — and they were told they were not allowed to [speak to] a reporter.”

Page continued, “Now, why in the world would the campaign tell their own supporters who came out to campaign in favor Hillary Clinton … these are the young people, college kids, for Hillary, and they’ve been told they can’t talk to reporters. Why in the world would you do that?

“This raises some warning flags for Hillary Clinton campaign that is trying to control their supporters.”

Steve Kornacki agreed, saying, “Nothing that those supporters could possibly say to the press than the story of telling them not to talk.”

Clinton’s repeated stumbling on the campaign trail, and concern, over her unethical behavior, have raised concerns among  some Democratic voters that nominating Hillary Clinton will lead to a Republican victory on election day. While Bernie Sanders has been stimulated a remarkable amount of excitement around his campaign, some also have concerns over whether he can beat Clinton for the nomination and win the general election. While Joe Biden’s name comes up the most among those who believe another well-known candidate with gravitas is needed to enter the race, Salon has repeated another name which would be worth considering if he is interested–Al Gore. The story is entitled, It’s time to draft Al Gore: If Democrats want to win, it’s clear neither Hillary nor Sanders is the way. The article gives ten reasons why:

Enter Al Gore: the one person on the left, apart from Clinton and Biden, with the cachet to bridge the establishment and progressive wings of the party. Here are 10 reasons why a Gore candidacy makes sense, both for the Democratic Party and the country.

1. Stature. Gore is a superstar with impeccable qualifications. The GOP will have a hard time marginalizing someone of his caliber and experience. His background speaks for itself: a former Congressman, U.S. Senator, and two-time Vice President. He’s even succeed wildly in the private sector as a businessman — something Republicans can’t help but praise. In short, Gore passes the credibility test by any measure, and that matters in a national election. Hillary Clinton is the only other Democratic candidate who can match Gore on this front.

2. Vulnerability. As the new AP poll shows, Clinton’s unfavorability ratings are rising among Americans overall and among Democratic voters in particular. Indeed, her positive marks have plummeted from 81% to 70% among Democrats since April. Worse, as the AP noted: “Just 39 percent of all Americans have a favorable view of Clinton, compared to nearly half who say they have a negative opinion of her.” Hard to win with numbers like that.

These numbers are consistent with another recent poll, which confirmed that Clinton’s lead over the Democratic field has shrunk considerably over the last several months. Some of this is the result of Clinton fatigue, but it’s also due to the rise of Bernie Sanders. The left wing of the party is flocking to Sanders, in part, because they don’t trust Clinton’s centrist record. Gore, on the other hand, who has become much more outspoken since leaving office, could embrace much of Sanders’ populist platform while also selling himself as a more appealing national candidate. That’s a strong case on his behalf, one many Democrats will find persuasive.

3. Besides Hillary Clinton, no one running as a Democrat is likely to challenge Republicans in a national election. Sanders is a regional candidate at best; he shouldn’t be, but he is, and that’s not changing next year. The other candidates scarcely warrant mentioning: Martin O’Malley, Jim Webb, Lincoln Chafee – these guys are political ornaments, running for reasons known only to their friends and families. Gore is a national figure, however. He can rival any GOP candidate in terms of fundraising prowess, party support, organizational acumen, experience, and name recognition. He’s also become something of a rock star post-politics, winning a Nobel, an Oscar, and an Emmy. Gore, in other words, is the perfect package, both politically and professionally.

4. Independents. Gore, justifiably or not, is less polarizing than Clinton, which means he can appeal to independents. Although they’re manufactured scandals, issues like the private emails at the State Department and the Benghazi fiasco will plague Clinton in the general election; Republicans (duplicitously, of course) will use these non-issues to bludgeon her month after month, debate after debate, ad after ad. This is pure nonsense, but it will be a distraction nevertheless. Gore, alternatively, brings less comparable baggage – that makes him a harder target for the GOP.

5. Foreign policy. Hillary Clinton is right about a lot of things, but foreign policy isn’t one of them. After our recent misadventures in the Middle East, this really matters. On all things foreign policy, Clinton has a habit of flopping with the political winds. Her maximalist, borderline neoconservative positions at both the Senate and the State Department are a particularly disturbing example of this. Indeed, she beat the war drums on Iraq, Syria, and Iran at one point. In short, Clinton is a hawk, and most of us have seen enough of that in the last decade or so. Gore’s absence from politics during this period gives him a distinct advantage: he wasn’t complicit in our recent geopolitical blunders. He also opposed the Iraq War, something Hillary and the GOP candidates can’t say.

6. The corruption of the political process by Wall Street is — and should be — a major issue in this election. Everyone knows already how much influence the financial industry has in Washington. Hillary Clinton, to her credit, has talked quite a bit about income inequality and political corruption, but the fact remains: Wall Street loves her. This ought to make Democrats uncomfortable. Gore, admittedly because he hasn’t run for office in years, has not relied on Wall Street for campaign funding — at least not in recent history. If nothing else, this is a mark in Gore’s favor, and another reason for Democrats to get behind his campaign.

7. Climate change. As Ezra Klein argued a few months ago in a column about Gore, “Income inequality is a serious problem…But climate change is an existential threat.” Gore, whatever you think of him, is an unimpeachable authority on climate change. As Klein wrote, “When it comes to climate change, there’s no one in the Democratic Party – or any other political party – with Gore’s combination of credibility and commitment.” Given the president’s unique ability to make a difference on an issue like this, it matters a great deal who wins this election. We can’t say definitively what Hillary Clinton would or would not do about climate change, but we can be fairly certain that Al Gore would do more than any other potential candidate for president.

8. Gore has nothing to lose. Having been out of politics for so long, Gore is liberated in ways no other candidate is. He’s got no recent voting record to scrutinize (read: distort); he’s independently wealthy and well-connected; and his private sector activism has allowed him to take authentic positions on issues that matter to him – and most Democrats. He’s beholden, in other words, to fewer constituencies than anyone else currently running. Perhaps most importantly, because he’s succeeded to such a degree in his post-political life, we’ve every reason to believe he’d feel empowered to take chances and risk failure. Isn’t that the candidate most people want?

9. Vengeance. If we’re stuck with a rerun election (Clinton vs. Bush), most would prefer to see Gore get his vengeance against another Bush. Gore, you may recall, was elected president in 2000 over George W. Bush. For reasons we won’t get into now, that victory was stolen from Gore in Florida, thanks in no small part to Jeb Bush, who was then governor of that state. With Jeb the likely Republican candidate next year, it would be a delightful bit of Karmic justice for him to lose to the man he robbed 16 years prior.

10. Democrats need a spark. Gore may not be new, but his candidacy would feel that way. His political life seems a distant memory at this point, but his activism and business savvy have kept him in the public consciousness. As with most politicians, moreover, the freedom of not having to run for office has done wonders for Gore’s image. His entrance and voice would only enliven the Democratic Party, which is exactly what it needs in an election decided, overwhelmingly, by voter turnout.

While I would like to give Sanders more time to see if he can continue to grow his support, Gore would also make an excellent alternative to Hillary Clinton. I doubt Gore would be interested, but it would also be satisfying to see him beat not only Hillary Clinton, but to beat a Bush should Jeb get the nomination.

The current Republican front-runner, Donald Trump, is far less likely than Clinton to actually win their party’s nomination, and there must be many Republicans who are terrified of the prospect of this front-runner actually winning. The Weekly Standard reports on the latest outrageous statement from Trump (video above):

“He’s not a war hero,” Trump, a Republican running for president, said of McCain. “I like people that weren’t captured. “He’s a war hero because he was captured. I like people that weren’t captured.”

This statement is bad enough under any circumstance, but it comes off as even worse considering how Trump received several deferments to avoid serving in Viet Nam. While I don’t fault Trump for avoiding military service in Viet Nam, but to attack someone such as McCain who did serve is totally uncalled for.

Trump also refused to rule out running as a third party candidate. Hopefully he does so, as this would probably guarantee a Democratic victory.

You might not read about such gaffes from Trump in the future in the political section of The Huffington Post.

After watching and listening to Donald Trump since he announced his candidacy for president, we have decided we won’t report on Trump’s campaign as part of The Huffington Post’s political coverage. Instead, we will cover his campaign as part of our Entertainment section. Our reason is simple: Trump’s campaign is a sideshow. We won’t take the bait. If you are interested in what The Donald has to say, you’ll find it next to our stories on the Kardashians and The Bachelorette.

While they have a point, I cannot agree with this decision. Donald Trump, like it or not, is a major part of this campaign at the moment. If he was polling under five percent, then maybe this could be justified, but he is now leading the Republican field in the polls. As repugnant as his platform is, there unfortunately is a following for Trump’s brand of racism and xenophobia among the Republican base. It is a real part of this campaign.

Update: No apology from Donald Trump, leading to predictions that Trump is toast. That is fine, but why not even earlier? Apparently among many conservative politicians and media outlets, racist and xenophobic statements are not a campaign-killer.

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The Two Front Runners And Their Vulnerabilities

Graphic shows results of AP-GfK poll on Hillary Clinton; 2c x 5 inches; 96.3 mm x 127 mm;

Going by the polls, there are two apparent front-runners for their party’s nomination, but one has a far more meaningful lead than the other. While I will not totally dismiss the possibility of Donald Trump winning the Republican nomination as I discussed yesterday, it remains far more likley that we will see multiple candidates take leads for a period of time in the Republican race as we saw four years ago. Perhaps we will know when Republicans are truly scared of him when they start to bring up his previous statements, including on abortion rights, health care, and support for how Barack Obama handled the economy.

Hillary Clinton has a more significant lead in the Democratic race, and going by any conventional measures is most likley to win, but she is showing some signs of weakness which no longer make her nomination appear inevitable.

While Clinton retains a significant lead among Democrats, the AP-Gfk poll does show some softening of her support:

Hillary Rodham Clinton’s standing is falling among Democrats, and voters view her as less decisive and inspiring than when she launched her presidential campaign just three months ago, according to a new Associated Press-GfK poll.

The survey offers a series of warning signs for the leading Democratic candidate. Most troubling, perhaps, for her prospects are questions about her compassion for average Americans, a quality that fueled President Barack Obama’s two White House victories.

Just 39 percent of all Americans have a favorable view of Clinton, compared to nearly half who say they have a negative opinion of her. That’s an eight-point increase in her unfavorable rating from an AP-GfK poll conducted at the end of April.

The drop in Clinton’s numbers extends into the Democratic Party. Seven in 10 Democrats gave 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.

“I used to like her, but I don’t trust her,” said Donald Walters of Louisville, Kentucky. “Ever since she’s announced her candidacy for the presidency I just haven’t liked the way she’s handled things. She doesn’t answer questions directly.”

While Clinton’s favorability rating fell, Obama’s stayed constant at 46 percent since April. More than 8 in 10 Democrats have a positive view of the president.

This follows another poll this week from Morning Consult showing even greater problems with trust:

Few voters say they trust former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, but a majority say she has a vision for the future of the country, according to a new survey that highlights the challenges ahead for the Democratic front-runner’s campaign.

The Morning Consult poll of 2,019 registered voters shows just 19 percent say Clinton is honest and trustworthy, and only 35 percent say she has the average American’s best interests at heart.

Democrats and liberals are far more likely to credit Clinton with positive attributes, as are Hispanic and African American voters. But just 30 percent of all voters — and only 24 percent of independents — say Clinton “cares about issues important to me.”

Should Clinton win the nomination, trust issues are likely to be a greater factor in the general election. Democrats are quicker than the full electorate to ignore the scandals, and many are not paying attention to the details. Republicans are likley to bring them up far more in the general election, similar to how the Swift Boat attacks on John Kerry surfaced prior to his winning the nomination, but the major attacks were held until shortly after the Democratic convention. The scandals involving Hillary Clinton’s email and contributions to the Foundation also threaten to be more damaging as, in contrast to the Swift Boat Liars, the accusations against Clinton are supported by the facts (including newspaper fact-check sites).

Distrust of Hillary Clinton may or may not play a role in the general election considering the significant faults in all the Republican candidates. Charlie Cook also pointed out that one previous candidate won a presidential election despite not being trusted–Bill Clinton:

But after a flurry of unflattering stories regarding her email practices during her tenure at the State Department and questions about possible conflicts of interest with donors to Clinton-related foundations and groups that paid her husband, former President Clinton, speech honoraria, the share of Americans who picked “is honest” dropped from the mid-70s to just 42 percent in the May CNN/ORC poll, with “not honest” jumping from the 20s to 57 percent. The ABC News/Washington Post poll also recorded an honesty drop, albeit a less precipitous one. When asked if Clinton is “honest and trustworthy” in March, Americans were evenly split—46 percent answered yes, 46 percent responded no. By May, those numbers had stretched to 41 percent yes and 52 percent no.

So will these doubts about Hillary Clinton’s trustworthiness cost her the election? There is no doubt that voters want to be able to trust a president, but it should be remembered that Bill Clinton won an election in 1992 with large deficits in the honesty department. Polling by CBS News and The New York Times in April 1992 found that, when asked if Clinton has “more honesty and integrity than most people in public life,” just 16 percent of respondents said yes, while 48 percent answered no. The ABC News/Washington Post poll also reflected concern about Bill Clinton’s integrity. In June, when ABC/Washington Post polled the statement “Clinton is honest,” 39 percent agreed and 49 percent disagreed. In October, the numbers were virtually even, at 31 percent yes, 32 percent no, hardly a rousing endorsement of his integrity, yet he beat the incumbent President George H.W. Bush anyway.

Still it would make sense to chose a candidate who is trusted by the voters going into a general election campaign.

Looking at other factors, Hillary Clinton is doing extremely well with fund raising in terms of dollars brought in but lags behind Sanders with regards to donations from the grass roots:

Of the $47.5 million that Mrs. Clinton has raised, less than one-fifth has come from donations of $200 or less. That is a far smaller proportion than that of her Democratic and Republican rivals who have excited grass-roots donors on the left and right, such as Senators Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Ted Cruz of Texas. While Mr. Sanders raised far less than Mrs. Clinton over all — about $15 million, including money transferred from his Senate account — about four-fifths of that amount came from smaller donors.

Total contributions is probably the more important factor with regards to winning elections, but this gap might also indicate that those who support Clinton in the polls are also less enthusiastic about turning out to vote in primaries and caucuses. Despite the idea that corporations are people, it takes real voters and not corporate donors turning out to win primary elections.

Clinton also got the first major union endorsement, but there has also been grass roots opposition to the recent decision by the American Federation of Teachers to endorse Clinton.

While Clinton has a tremendous lead for the Democratic nomination at this time, she also has significant weaknesses which could still influence the outcome. The contrasting campaign styles of Clinton compared to Sanders and O’Malley, along with other potential candidates entering the race, could impact the opinions of those who now state they support Clinton, largely based upon a combination of name recognition, nostalgia, and gender. The increased disqualification we are seeing with the status quo could lead to unanticipated results.

As I have discussed previously, polls at this stage have very limited predictive value with regards to the ultimate election results. Patrick Egan looked at various polling data and found only one which appears meaningful in predicting election results–presidential approval. While this is based upon a limited number of elections, and other factors certainly could impact the final election results, Obama’s improving popularity in some (but not all) polls should be encouraging for Democrats going into the general election.

Update:  The Clinton campaign is right to be happy with their lead in the polls and the money they brought in. It is also not surprising that they are ignoring the polls showing that people do not trust Clinton and do not care about where the money is coming from or who Clinton is indebted to.

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Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders Generating Unexpected Excitement, But For Different Reasons

In this photo taken May 20, 2015, Democratic Presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., poses for a portrait before an interview with The Associated Press in Washington. For Democrats who had hoped to lure Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren into a presidential campaign, independent Sen. Bernie Sanders might be the next best thing. Sanders, who is opening his official presidential campaign Tuesday in Burlington, Vermont, aims to ignite a grassroots fire among left-leaning Democrats wary of Hillary Rodham Clinton. He is laying out an agenda in step with the party's progressive wing and compatible with Warren's platform _ reining in Wall Street banks, tackling college debt and creating a government-financed infrastructure jobs program. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

Both Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders are generating  greater excitement than anticipated in their party’s nomination battles. Maybe I wrote off Donald Trump’s chances for winning the Republican nomination too quickly in my post on him yesterday. His popularity is increasing dramatically among Republicans:

Donald Trump’s popularity has surged among Republicans after dominating several news cycles with his anti-illegal immigration rhetoric, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.

Nearly six in 10 — 57 percent — Republicans now have a favorable view of Trump, compared to 40 percent who have an unfavorable one. That marks a complete reversal from a late-May Post-ABC poll, in which 65 percent of Republicans saw Trump unfavorably.

Trump continues to be unpopular among the public at large, with negative marks outpacing positive ones 61-33. “Strongly unfavorable” views outnumber strongly positive ratings by a 3-1 ratio.

I initially figured that Trump’s recent lead among Republicans was due to name recognition, but he was just as well known before he entered the race. The difference between current polls and May appears to be more from his actual actions between now and then. Never underestimate the ability of racism and xenophobia to energize Republican voters.

Some in the media have been comparing the support received by Donald Trump among Republicans to the support received by Bernie Sanders among Democrats. This makes a simplistic story line for the press, but is misleading. Donald Trump is surging because he is saying what the Republican voters believe deep down. Republicans have been using the southern strategy to drive support, but generally avoid being as blatantly racist as Trump. In contrast, Bernie Sanders is receiving his support from liberals who are dissatisfied with the Democratic establishment and the conservative policies supported by Hillary Clinton.

So far Clinton has benefited from name recognition, gender, and nostalgia, but few are paying close attention to the issues. I doubt that most Democratic voters even realize how conservative Clinton has been on issues including foreign policy, civil liberties, and social issues, along with the economic issues which have so far framed this campaign. If Sander, or another challenger from the left, is to succeed against Clinton, they will have to demonstrate how different their views really are. I am hoping that such contrasts will come out in the debates, and disappointed that there will be so few.

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Donald Trump Praising Barack Obama (2009-10) And David Letterman Mocking Trump

DONALD-TRUMP

“I would hire him. He’s handled the tremendous mess he walked into very well. He still has a daunting task ahead of him but he appears to be equal to the challenge. He has kept his eye on both national and international issues and his visits to foreign countries have shown him to be warmly received, which is certainly a change from the last Administration.” –Donald Trump in 2009

Plus Trump in an interview with Wolf Blitzer, 2010:

BLITZER: His economic policies, President Obama says, have saved us from another depression, is he right?

TRUMP: Well, I do agree, and this did start prior to him getting there, but he also kept it going. You had to do something to sure up the banks, because the psychology of the banks and you would have had a run on every banks, the strongest and the weakest. So, you have to do something. And I hated the ultraconservative view on that. And ultraconservative is nothing should ever happen. If they go out of business, everybody said, that’s fine.

Via BuzzFeed News

Trump now simultaneously leads the Republican field and is the weakest competitor among the top seven Republican candidates against Hillary Clinton in the USA TODAY/Suffolk University Poll. Republicans can at least take some comfort in the fact that polls at this point have near zero predictive value. It is hard to believe even the current Republican Party would nominate him.

In related news, David Letterman came out of retirement last week in response to Trump’s candidacy saying, “I have made the biggest mistake of my life, ladies and gentlemen.” He then presented a Top Ten List of Interesting facts about Donald Trump. The Washington Post has the full list, with some edits:

No. 10: That thing on his head was the gopher in “Caddyshack.”

No. 9: During sex, Donald Trump calls out his own name.

No. 8: Donald Trump looks like the guy on the lifeboat with the women and children.

No. 7: He wants to build a wall. How about building a wall around that thing on his head?

No. 6: Trump walked away from a moderately successful television show for some delusional bulls— … oh wait, that’s me.

No. 5: Donald Trump weighs 240 pounds — 250 with cologne.

No. 4: Trump would like all Americans to know that that thing on his head is free-range.

Letterman declared No. 3 “a tie.”

No. 3: If president, instead of pardoning a turkey on Thanksgiving, plans to evict a family on Thanksgiving./That’s not a hairdo, it’s a wind advisory. 

No. 2: Donald Trump has pissed off so many Mexicans, he’s starring in a new movie entitled “No Amigos.” 

No. 1: Thanks to Donald Trump, the Republican mascot is also an ass.

The video is below:

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