Yesterday’s primary results in Michigan and Mississippi are yet another indication that Hillary Clinton’s “inevitability” or “electability” tropes are in serious trouble. She lost Michigan after polls showed her with large double-digit leads. Her Mississippi margin of victory was huge, continuing a pattern where her biggest wins are in Southern states.
She may well hold on to win the Democratic nomination, although that no longer looks like the mortal lock it has long been viewed. But disturbing trends in the primaries make her vulnerable, even to a cartoonish character such as Donald Trump.
For starters, she cannot count on racking up general election wins in states of the Deep South. It’s been a while since any Democrat could bank on that. But states such as Michigan and Kansas, as well as barely wining in Iowa, demonstrate that she does not have wide geographic appeal.
Then there is her constantly being trounced by Bernie Sanders in younger demographic groups. It’s not just the enthusiasm gap, which is substantial. Younger women are not as enamored of the idea of this woman as President as older groups. Even among African-Americans – a group she views as her strongest base – she only tied with Sanders for the support of younger blacks.
Then there is her favorability rating among all voters. She and Donald Trump have the two lowest such ratings – both are under water with less than 50 per cent. That is remarkable when one considers that Ted Cruz is in the field.
Clinton has never been a good campaigner, although she does do better when her back is to the wall. This is, after all, the second time she started a campaign for the Presidency as the heavy post-time favorite. But her defensiveness and careful parsing of answers fuels the notion that she is not trustworthy – again her rating on trustworthiness does not exceed 50 per cent.
Her Sunday night debate with Sanders included two notable examples. Moderator Don Lemon quoted Avenue Q as saying that every white person has a blind spot on race and asked Clinton what hers is. It’s a tough and unexpected question, and Clinton evaded with a canned answer. Lemon came right back, and this time Clinton said, “Are you going to ask Bernie Sanders that?” After twice trying to not respond, she ended up doing so. (Sanders was asked the same question.)
But the other statement was one for which she has had ample time to develop a response. She had been asked by a moderator in an earlier debate if she would release the transcripts of the three speeches to Goldman Sachs for which she was paid $675,000. She said she “would look into it,” which, for veteran observers of both Clintons, meant “not on your life.”
When the issue came up on Sunday, she said she would release hers when all other candidates, including Republicans, released transcripts of their speeches. She said this with the smile of the cat who ate the canary, indicating that, once again, she was cleverer than the rest of us.
Actually, she is not more clever, since her non-answer indicated that her ties with Wall Street are more important than what voters might think. And, it again buttresses her inherent lack of trustworthiness and contempt for our intelligence.
Of course, one of the cardinal rules of writing about politics this season is that no column can fail to discuss Donald Trump. I was catching up on Real Time with Bill Maher this week. On his February 26 show, he was agog about how wild the previous night’s Republican debate had been, saying he had never seen anything like it. I laughed, because in the debate the following week, we saw the leading Republican candidate assure viewers that his penis was big. That, of course, became his next show’s most surprising event in political history.
I missed last night’s Trump victory speech in a room that probably is the model for how he will do a classy redecoration of the White House. By all accounts, it was a bizarre spectacle, with Trump standing near a table loaded with Trump steaks, Trump vodka and Trump wine, and discussing each of these top products. So in one of Charlie Pierce’s blogs today, I particularly enjoyed this sentence: “You will never see another performance like the one he put on last night.” What’s your over-under on how many more times that statement will be made during this campaign?