In politics, a good candidate with an effective message, money, and organization can reverse negative poll numbers on virtually anything, except on one issue: honesty and trustworthiness. It is virtually impossible to erase a negative impression that the electorate has of a candidate’s integrity.
Rightly or wrongly, the American electorate has a perception that Hillary Clinton is dishonest and untrustworthy. That perception has deepened with the worsening news for Hillary regarding the email scandal.
This was verified this morning by news of the Boston Herald poll showing Vermont Socialist Senator Bernie Sanders with a seven point lead over Hillary, 44-37 in the forthcoming February, 2016 New Hampshire Democratic Primary. Last night’s news regarding the FBI’s taking possession of her email server has placed her in political hospice.
In my freshman year of college, 1968, a Democratic Senator from Minnesota, Eugene McCarthy, a decidedly dovish Senator on the war in Vietnam embarked on a seemingly quixotic campaign against incumbent President Lyndon B. Johnson. Yet on the March, 1968 primary day, Gene McCarthy came within a political gnat’s eyelash of defeating LBJ.
McCarthy attracted support from both hawks and doves in New Hampshire. It did not matter. The message of his near victory was clear: In the wake of the Tet Offensive, LBJ had lost all credibility on the Vietnam War. On March 31, 1968, LBJ announced that he would not seek reelection.
In the case of the current presidential election, we do not have to wait for the actual New Hampshire primary to take place. Bernie Sanders has run a campaign with an economic populist message, rather than one challenging Hillary’s credibility per se. Yet he has attracted enormous Democratic grassroots support based upon him being the non- Hillary. And now, six months before the Democratic primary in the Granite State, the message from the Boston Herald poll is clear: Hillary’s worsening public image of being dishonest and untrustworthy has destroyed her credibility as a viable Democratic presidential candidate. Her withdrawal prior to the February, 2016 New Hampshire primary is inevitable.
Within a week after the New Hampshire 1968 primary, the late U.S. Senator from New York, Robert F. Kennedy announced his candidacy for the Democratic Presidential Primary, seeking to displace Gene McCarthy’s position as the leading candidate of the anti-Vietnam War wing of the Democratic Party. Similarly, I think that the Democratic Senator from Massachusetts, Elizabeth Warren will soon enter the presidential race, seeking to displace Bernie Sanders as the leading candidate of the economic populist wing of the Democratic Party.
A few weeks ago, on July 27, I wrote my column for this website, “The Broadening Clinton Email Scandal: Whither Hillary, Biden, and Warren?”
The following is a direct quote from this column:
If Hillary’s negative numbers on honesty and trustworthiness increase to a point where her candidacy for the White House becomes nonviable, expect both Vice President Joe Biden and U.S. Senator from Massachusetts Elizabeth Warren to seek the Democratic presidential nomination.
I am not known for excessive modesty. Although I am usually right in my predictions, I have at times been very wrong. In this case, I think my words were prophetic.
I always keep in mind Yogi Berra’s quote, “It ain’t over ‘til it’s over”. For Hillary Clinton, it’s over, folks.
Alan J. Steinberg served as Regional Administrator of Region 2 EPA during the administration of former President George W. Bush and as Executive Director of the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission under former New Jersey Governor Christie Whitman.