If you judge a candidate by his or her ability to secure the party nomination, Hillary Clinton’s campaign is still in good shape. While the nascent rise of Bernie Sanders (and the looming threat of Joe Biden) probably has her chewing her nails, the good money is still on the former secretary of state.
When it comes to the general election, though, Clinton is going to have her work cut out for her.
Her favorability ratings are on the decline. According to a new poll from CBS News, 53 percent of the American electorate has an unfavorable view of Clinton. Only 33 percent view her favorably. Can she win the White House when the majority of American voters dislike her? It would take a colossal failure on the GOP’s part for that to happen.
Which means we should probably be worried.
Setting aside a history of Republican failure, though, there is reason for great optimism. Even if it came at the expense of Kevin McCarthy’s bid for the speakership, people are actually talking about Benghazi again. Clinton’s email troubles are far from over; even Obama characterized her decision to use a private server as a “mistake.” Her habit of changing policy positions to reflect the polls will leave her wide open to attack.
But worse than anything else…the public simply doesn’t trust her. Even if she could point to a list of accomplishments a mile long, it wouldn’t make her likeable. She wouldn’t be able to escape the cloud of suspicion that always seems to hang about her like a dark shadow. The more she loosens up, the more it looks like an act.
America seldom votes an unlikeable person into office, especially at this level. Hillary lacks Obama’s easy charisma. She pales in comparison to W’s everyday charm. And if given a choice between dinner with Hillary and dinner with her husband, who would possibly pick her? Would she even talk to you?
At the end of the day, every election is a popularity contest. It’s not like political scholars, historians, and academics are the only ones voting. Most people who cast their ballots in a presidential election couldn’t give you more than 50 words if asked to explain why. And that’s fine. That’s the way it is. Lament it if you want, but you might as well get angry about the sun. Voters choose on looks, they choose on charisma, they choose on any number of things that have absolutely nothing to do with qualifications or even ideology.
And the funny thing is that it works. Somehow, it actually works. That’s not to say that voters haven’t made some bad decisions – god no – but our democracy still stands after all these years. Maybe there’s something to be said for going with your gut. And even if there isn’t, it’s not going to stop people from doing it. That’s what should really concern Hillary Clinton. Unless she can find some miraculous way to grow a personality, her path to the presidency is a difficult one.