The Corner

Elections

Hillary Clinton’s Enduring Public Image

Hillary Clinton at a “Get Out the Vote” rally in Concord, N.H., February 6, 2016. (Brian Snyder/Reuters)

Matthew Yglesias writes:

But the reality is Clinton was plenty likable at key moments in her career. Most notably, one of the main reasons the Democratic Party rallied around her so hard in 2014-’15 is that when she was secretary of state, her approval ratings were far higher than Barack Obama’s, and she was an in-demand midterms surrogate even in states where he was toxic. . . .

What brought Clinton down was public exposure not to her personality — which was sparkling enough to make her the most admired woman in America for 17 years straight before losing the claim to Michelle Obama in 2018 — but extended public scrutiny of every detail of a decades-long career in public life.

All of those most-admired polls should be taken with a grain of salt. To be the most admired woman in America, Michelle Obama had to be volunteered by 15 percent of respondents as the woman they most admire. If you’re polarizing enough, you can be the modal answer while still being unpopular. Hillary Clinton was “most admired” last year with 9 percent. Gallup asked Americans if they had a favorable or unfavorable view of her twice last year, and 57 and 61 percent chose unfavorable in those polls.

Glancing over the last three decades of polling on Clinton, she had three peaks: when her husband was elected president for the first time and she enjoyed the traditional popularity of a First Lady; during the Lewinsky scandal, when she had public sympathy as a wronged wife; and when she was Secretary of State, a role that traditionally places people above partisan politics. I don’t think most Americans ever thought of her personality as “sparkling.”

Ramesh Ponnuru is a senior editor for National Review, a columnist for Bloomberg Opinion, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and a senior fellow at the National Review Institute.

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