If you were wondering whether Hillary Clinton’s emailgate had damaged her standing with Democrats and the general electorate, check out the latest poll stats. She remains solidly on top, decimating all potential rivals – in both parties.
A few paragraphs south, I’ll tell you why. But let’s start with the numbers.
The new CNN/ORC poll, which queried voters late last week (after she grudgingly took press questions about her private email account), says that 62 percent of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents want her to be the ’16 nominee. That’s actually one point higher than in February. When the same question is asked without Elizabeth Warren in the mix, she’s at 67 percent. The next closest Democrat, Joe Biden, is more than 50 points behind. In reponse to another question, 68 percent of Democrats say the party has a better chance of winning the White House with Hillary as the nominee.
But here’s how we really know that the email flap hasn’t meant squat:
Even after weeks of unrelentingly negative press coverage (I whacked her twice for the emails), she still crushes every potential Republican opponent – by double digits. She currently beats Rand Paul by 11 percentage points, Marco Rubio by 13, Mike Huckabee by 14, Chris Christie by 15, Scott Walker by 15, and Jeb the Bush heir apparent by 15.
Granted, it’s early. Granted, no candidate in this closely polarized era will ever win the presidency by double digits. The gap will inevitably narrow as election day draws nearer. But those numbers give us a vivid snapshot of Hillary’s foundational resilience – and the Republican field’s abiding vulnerabilities. Some of those GOP hopefuls are unelectable (Paul and Huckabee), some have heavy baggage (Jeb, thanks to his failed brother, and Christie), and some are newbies to most voters (Rubio and Walker).
Matchups aside, the poll separatedly measures the public’s impressions of all the aspirants. In the aftermath of the email flap, 53 percent of Americans view Hillary favorably. Biden ranks second, with 43 percent. Most importantly, no Republican comes close. Hillary’s favorability percentage is 18 points higher than Huckabee’s, 22 points higher than Jeb’s, 25 points higher than Christie’s, and 32 points higher than Walker’s.
(Walker fans will inevitably say, “Yeah but that’s because nobody knows who he is yet, and when voters learn more, his fave rating will rise.” True enough. But if Walker were to debate Hillary, I’d love to see him recycle that line about how his battle with unionized Americans has toughened him to fight ISIS. Hillary, with 14 years of Washington-based foreign policy creds, would reduce him to a cinder.)
But here’s the most significant number on the fave-unfave chart: One percent.
That’s the share of folks who say they’ve never heard of Hillary. (Pray tell, who are those people?) The point is, Americans have been processing their feelings about her since the distant era of 1992, weighing her many strengths against her many weaknesses, and the majority verdict is still favorable. Nobody else in the field has a stat like that baked in the cake. A candidate with that kind of ballast can easily weather storms like emailgate. And we haven’t even mentioned the ’16 meta-narrative: a first-ever female nominee, facing an autumn electorate that’s 53 percent female.
It will take something far stronger than an ephemeral flap – like a Republican foe with centrist cross-gender swing-state appeal (if such a species still exists) – to take Hillary down.
Hey, a local angle:
In that new CNN/ORC poll, when Republican respondents were asked to name their preferred choice of a nominee, Chris Christie finished fifth – lower than the unelectable Ben Carson. Back in December, Christie was a solid second. That pungent smell tickling our nostrils is burnt toast.
So let’s see if I have this right: De facto Republican chairman Bibi Netanyahu said on election eve that he’d never support a Palestinian state, but after reaping the requisite right-wing votes (in part because of what he said on election eve), now he’s back to saying that he might some day support a Palestinian state, which is similar to what he said in 2009 and 2011, although what he said in 2009 and 2011 might’ve been rhetorical fakery, which means that what he said election eve was what he has really believed all along. Or whatever.
Also, he’s now saying that he really wasn’t trying to slur Israel’s Arabs when he warned right-wing voters on election eve that “droves” of The Other were heading to the polls. Again, whatever. Racist rhetoric can’t be retroactively erased.