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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 9/17/15

Why Has Hillary Faltered?

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(Image by (From Wikimedia) United States Department of State, Author: United States Department of State)
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During the "summer of Trump," there's been a flood of negative news about Hillary Clinton. As a result, the race for the Democratic presidential nomination is closer than expected. There are five reasons why Hillary's campaign has faltered.

The latest CNN/ORC poll indicates that in the last three months, Clinton's lead over Senator Bernie Sanders has shriveled from 43 percent to 10 percent -- Hillary now commands 37 percent of prospective democratic voters, Sanders 27 percent, and (undeclared candidate) Vice President Joe Biden has 20 percent. The Huffington Post poll of polls also indicates Clinton's lead over Sanders is dwindling (Hillary 44 percent, Sanders 25 percent). Five factors have contributed to her decline.

1. Donald Trump's candidacy has hurt Hillary. In the long-term, if Trump wins the Republican nomination, this should enhance Clinton's chances of being elected President: Trump's misogyny will underline the basic differences between the two candidates. Nonetheless, in the short term his candidacy hurts Clinton because he is running as an outsider. (It's no accident that two political outsiders, Trump and Ben Carson, lead the GOP field.) The Republican base is wary of Washington politicians. And this is true of voters, in general. One year ago, a Gallup Poll found that 81 percent of respondents trusted the government in Washington to do the right thing "only some of the time."

Most voters regard Hillary Clinton as a Washington politician -- an insider. Interestingly, Bernie Sanders, who has been in Washington far longer than Clinton -- 24 years -- is regarded as an outsider; perhaps because he is a self-declared socialist democrat and not the preferred candidate of the Democratic establishment.

2. The relentless news about the Clinton State Department emails has damaged Hillary. The continuing drone of negative news has driven down her favorability ratings. The Huffington Post poll of polls finds that Hillary's favorability has gone negative: 53.4 percent unfavorable to 40.7 percent favorable. (The same poll shows Sanders at 36.9 favorable to 36 percent unfavorable; Donald Trump is 52.4 percent unfavorable to 40.4 percent favorable -- Clinton is now more unfavorable than Trump.)

The relentless focus on the Clinton emails has also meant the mainstream media (notably the New York Times) has emphasized this aspect of her campaign rather than the many positive proposals that Hillary has advanced. Media critic David Brock believes that the New York Times has become "a megaphone for conservative propaganda." On the day Clinton unfurled her plan to overhaul political campaign finances, The New York Times headline was that the Clinton campaign was retooling because of the email scandal.

(For the record, Clinton did nothing illegal by using a private email server while she was Secretary of State. It was a process that other government officials, such as President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney had used.)

3. Bernie Sanders' campaign strategy has worked better than Hillary's. From the start, Clinton has emphasized small listening groups. Trying to increase his name recognition, Sanders has run a more conventional campaign (focusing on Iowa and New Hampshire) and drawn far larger crowds. On August 15th, Bernie Sanders appeared at the Iowa State Fair and drew larger crowds than did Hillary Clinton (or Donald Trump).

4. Bernie Sanders wants to rein in Wall Street; Hillary Clinton doesn't. There are many similarities between the Clinton and Sanders policy perspectives. Both support Obamacare; both warn of the peril of global climate change; etcetera. They differ on the scope of Wall Street reform. Sanders says, "It is time to break up the largest financial institutions in the country." Clinton has been far more cautious on this subject.

Recent polls indicate Americans want Wall Street reform. Sanders has capitalized on this and picked up energy initially generated by Senator Elizabeth Warren.

5. Hillary is not "press friendly." In 1998, while she was still First Lady of the US, Hillary Clinton suggested that "a vast right-wing conspiracy" had long been conspiring against her and her husband. Many Democrats believe this is true (and attribute the relentless State-Department-Email news as a reflection of this conspiracy).

As a consequence, Hillary Clinton is guarded around the press. When she started her current campaign for President, she restricted access to her "listening" events. This incurred the animosity of reporters. Now, when she does give press conferences they are not well attended.

In contrast, Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump give press conferences all the time. And, as the new kids on the block, they get more positive coverage than Clinton.

Hillary Clinton's decline in the polls means her nomination is no longer a sure thing. To recover, Clinton should immediately address her campaign issues; she needs to: boost her favorability ratings; provide easier access to the press; and encourage more debates with Bernie Sanders and the other Democratic contenders.

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Bob Burnett is a Berkeley writer. In a previous life he was one of the executive founders of Cisco Systems.
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