Politics & Policy

Hillary’s Still Weak

Clinton speaks at a campaign rally in Madison, Wis., March 28, 2016. (Scott Olson/Getty)

The crush of media attention focused on the unending Republican presidential soap opera is doing Hillary Clinton an enormous favor: It’s making everyone forget that she remains an enormously flawed, weak candidate.

Sure, in head-to-head polling against Donald Trump, she seems like a conquering Athena. But if you look beyond that metric, you’ll notice her favorable rating remains lower than Ted Cruz’s. Even as her lead over Trump grows, the percentage of voters who find her “honest and trustworthy” continues to hit new lows. And for an allegedly inevitable nominee, she isn’t doing particularly well: She just lost her sixth straight contest to Bernie Sanders.

The Washington press corps more or less lost interest in the Democratic primary months ago, concluding that there was no way Sanders could possibly overtake Clinton. In mid-March, President Obama began to privately tell big Democratic donors that the time had come to unite around Clinton.

But the voters in the remaining primary states ignored the president’s advice and conventional wisdom. Last night in Wisconsin, Sanders won solidly, 56 percent to 43 percent. He’s probably going to win Wyoming’s caucuses on Saturday, too.

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Clinton closed the deal with Washington’s most influential journalists and pundits but she hasn’t closed the deal with the Democratic party’s primary voters as a whole. She’s responded to primary voters’ refusal to coronate her with characteristic arrogance and hostility, declaring that she “feels sorry” for young voters who believe Sanders’s claims “without doing their own research.” Her campaign told CNN that it has “lost patience” with her rival and is plotting an all-out assault on his gun-rights record. She declared this morning that she’s not even sure Sanders can accurately be labeled a Democrat.

Right now, one in four Sanders voters says they won’t support Clinton. Even staunch surrogates such as former Pennsylvania governor Ed Rendell aren’t sure an all-out assault on Sanders is the right way to close out the primary schedule. “I think the Clinton campaign should turn down the rhetoric,” Rendell told MSNBC today. “Because we’re going to need a large percentage of those Bernie Sanders voters to be for Secretary Clinton in November.”

#share#Yes, Clinton is still the most likely Democratic nominee. Given her overwhelming super-delegate advantage, she’ll need to win just 32 percent of the remaining available delegates to claim the nomination, which should be easy under Democrats’ proportional-allocation rules. But her party just isn’t that thrilled by her. Non-Democrats continue to distrust her and view her candidacy with a dispirited “meh” at best. And of course, most Republicans see her presidency as a nightmare scenario.

RELATED: Hillary’s Really Bad Week No One Heard About Because Guess Who

The first few months of 2016 made this election year look like a potential disaster for the Republican party. It still could be one, but the outlook isn’t quite as bleak as it was even a few weeks ago. All the GOP has to do is avoid nominating the most unpopular presidential nominee in recent polling history, Donald Trump, and emerge from its July Cleveland convention largely unified. A tall order, yes, but once the smoke clears, and Republicans have a nominee, Clinton’s lingering weaknesses with the overall electorate may offer the GOP a clear opportunity: If you unite, you win.

#related#Hillary Clinton vs. Donald Trump looks like a disaster, with even deep-red bastions such as Utah, Mississippi, and perhaps even Texas suddenly competitive for Democrats. Hillary Clinton vs. any Republican other than Trump looks better for the party. Ted Cruz isn’t doing fabulously against Clinton in head-to-head polling, but he’s doing significantly better than Trump. For what it’s worth, John Kasich is consistently beating her soundly, as was Marco Rubio before he dropped out.

And it remains the case that two out of three predictive models based on economic conditions and which party controls the White House foresee a GOP win in November. These models can’t account for everything and might be better suited for measuring a generic Republican against a generic Democrat in the current economic and political climate. But Hillary Clinton is weaker than a generic Democrat. So why would the GOP foul up its chances by nominating a candidate so much weaker than a generic Republican?

— Jim Geraghty is the senior political correspondent of National Review.

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