Republicans Underestimating Hillary Clinton?

Republicans seem to be thinking that Hillary Clinton will be an easier General Election candidate than the evidence suggests she is likely to be.

Bloomberg’s Mark Halperin is out with a piece making an argument that has been made elsewhere before, but seems to bear some real significance given the events of the last two weeks, namely that Republicans seem to be largely in denial about the fact that Hillary Clinton is, despite her summer of problems, still highly likely to become the 45th President of the United States:

A virulent strain of Clinton Derangement Syndrome, which scientists and Republicans thought had been wiped out at the end of the last century, is now afflicting millions of conservative Americans. Some Republicans so detest Hillary Clinton they are badly underestimating how likely she is, at this point in the campaign, to be America’s 45thpresident. Their denial is just as strong now as it was a month ago, before Clinton began a run of political victories that have enhanced her prospects, all while the roller derby/demolition derby that is the Republican nomination contest has continued to harm the GOP’s chances of winning back the White House.

To be sure, nothing ever happens in a linear or tidy fashion with the Clintons; she is certain to add more chapters to the Perils of Hillary saga before Election Day 2016. Bernie Sanders could still upend her in Iowa, New Hampshire, or both, which could throw the nomination battle into unadulterated bedlam. Even if Clinton is nominated, a strong Republican candidate could absolutely defeat her next November, with victory as simple as the party putting forth a nominee who is more likeable to voters and better on television. Indeed, many elite and grassroots Republicans believe Clinton’s personality, which they can’t stand, will keep her out of the Oval Office no matter what.

As Halperin notes, Clinton has had quite a good October and there are few signs that her good fortune is going to change. A universally well-received performance at the first Democratic debate, in which she deftly handled Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders and played a large role in the departure from the race of both Jim Webb and Lincoln Chafee, was preceded by a measurable up-tick in the polls that suggests that the summer doldrums that her campaign had suffered were coming to an end. Going into that debate, the main question hanging over the Democratic race was whether Clinton would be able to answer the doubts that had arisen about her during the summer and had led to months of speculation about the intentions of Vice-President Biden. Only a blind partisan would be unable to admit that she overcame those doubts quite well and demonstrated just how formidable candidate she is going to be, and the Vice-President certainly got the message since it was a week later than he was announcing that he was not running for President, a move that can only help Clinton in the end. Two days after Biden’s announcement, Clinton faced her next big test on Thursday before the House Select Committee investigating the Benghazi attack in which she once again deftly pushed back on the questions Republican members were asking to the point where the Chairman of the Committee how admits it was probably a mistake to question her in a public hearing to being with.  Yes, it’s possible that the successes of September and October could ultimately prove to be as fleeting as the doldrums of the summer, but the fact that the race is now kicking into high gear and that Clinton’s campaign seems to be doing the same suggests that this won’t be the case and the Clinton is well-positioned to quickly wrap up the Democratic nomination early next year and move on to concentrating on a General Election campaign while Republicans continue to fight amongst each other, a fight that could continue well into April before it’s resolved.

Greg Sargent is skeptical about Halperin’s suggestion of how Republicans view Clinton and the coming 2016 fight:

I find it hard to imagine that the smarter GOP strategists really believe all this. But if this is the prevailing Republican theory of the 2016 election, there is precedent for it. In 2012, it often seemed as if Romney campaign officials’ assessments of the election were shaped by a tendency to believe their own superficial, GOP-base-friendly talking points about Obama. The Romney campaign convinced itself that there was no way Obama could possibly get reelected amid such high unemployment. The Romney camp convinced itself that there was no way the 2012 electorate could possibly be as diverse as it had been in 2008. Obama’s election was best explained as a fluke — his cult of personality had captivated nonwhite and young voters, but that would prove as fleeting as a high-school crush. There was no way swing voters in 2012 could possibly see the Obama presidency as anything other than an irredeemable catastrophe, since Republicans knew, just knew, that’s what it had been. Something similar might be happening now.

Based on the available evidence, it’s difficult to see how Halperin’s assessment of the GOP view of Clinton is really all that far off the mark. For one thing, it seems to be well on display among most of the Republican candidates for President as well as their supporters. To listen to these candidates, beating Clinton in 2016 is really only a matter of bringing up issues like Benghazi and the email scandal and her alleged failures as Secretary of State and everything else will fall into place. This sounds very much like not only what Republicans were saying about Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012, but also what they were saying about Bill Clinton in 1992 and 1996, and we all know how those elections turned out. If Republicans really do think that they are going to be able to beat Clinton by concentrating on alleged scandals and other such matters then they are likely to be very disappointed when Election Night 2016 rolls around.

As Sargent goes on to note, the outcome of the 2016 election is, at this point, probably very much a 50-50 affair. There are plenty of reasons to believe that Clinton will be well-positioned heading into a General Election campaign next year, but there are also plenty of reasons to believe she could run into headwinds. On the negative side of the ledger, there lies the fact that Clinton’s fate will depend to no small degree on what the public thinks about the Obama Presidency as we get closer to the 2016 election and what they think about the course the country is on. At the moment, the President’s job approval numbers are enjoying something of an upward bounce even though they remain negative, but those numbers have fluctuated so much over the course of his Presidency that Clinton cannot count on them staying where they are over the course of the next year. Of more direct concern for Clinton is the “right direction/wrong track” poll which shows the public believing the nation is on the wrong track by more than a 2-to-1 margin. If that continues, then a campaign that would largely be based on convincing the country to continue the legacy of the Obama Administration may have some trouble getting across to voters in swing states.  Finally, there is the fact that Clinton will be trying to buck history to some extent given the fact that it has been rather rare in American history for an incumbent party to hold on to the White House after a two-term Presidency, especially since the ratification of the 22nd Amendment. George H.W. Bush managed to do it in 1988, although he only lasted one term, but before that it had only occurred when William Howard Taft succeeded Theodore Roosevelt in 1908, when Ulysses S. Grant succeeded Andrew Johnson, who had completed Abraham Lincoln’s second term, in 1868, and during the twenty-eight year period that began with the election of Thomas Jefferson in 1800 during which the Democratic-Republican Party essentially had a monopoly on the White House. Neither Richard Nixon nor Al Gore could do it in 1960 or 2000, although they both came close, and no Republican could have done it after eight years of George W. Bush in 2008. Clinton will have to find a way to do it in 2016.

On the positive side of the ledger, though, Clinton has several distinct advantages that make underestimating her a mistake on the part of Republicans. Primarily, of course, there is the seeming Democratic advantage in the Electoral College that seems to make it far easier for a Democratic nominee to put together the 270 Electoral Votes needed for victory than it would be for Republicans to do so. The fact that, thanks to Donald Trump and a general anti-immigrant ethos inside the Republican Party, it seems unlikely that Latino voters would be any more inclined to vote Republican in 2016 than they were in 2012 makes the Republican path to 270 even more difficult. Additionally, the longer that the Republican fight goes on, and the longer the Donald Trump’s of the world are seen as the face of the Republican Party, the more the party as a whole is likely to become tainted by extreme rhetoric and offensive positions regardless of who the nominee ends up being. In that type of environment, and assuming that Clinton avoids major gaffes going forward and that the economy or the state of the world don’t spiral out of control, Halperin’s contention that Clinton is likely to be the next President seems to me to be a pretty good guess at this point. Republicans could still have a chance to beat her, of course, but to do that they’re going to have to do more than serve up a rehash of the Clinton Derangement Syndrome and scandal-mongering of the 1990s, because it’s pretty clear that voters aren’t going to go for that.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2016, Hillary Clinton, Politicians, US Politics
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020.

Comments

  1. Pete S says:

    Is it possible that Republican confidence comes from the belief that Republicans in the House of Representatives are going to tank the economy, on purpose, in a couple of months? And they plan to do it in such a way that recovery before the next election seems impossible. At which point the low information voters will vote against Hillary Clinton since she is from the same party as the president who is to blame for the lousy economy.

  2. ChasHolman says:

    I don’t think the Republicans are underestimating Mrs Clinton, nearly as much as they are fully aware she is quite capable, which causes them to fumble around and do a lot of silly things, because she is well above many of them in sheer mental ability.

  3. edmondo says:

    Wasn’t she coronated in 2008 too?

  4. Ron Beasley says:

    The Republicans not only underestimate Hillary Clinton but overestimate the occupants in their primary clown car. It’s going to be difficult for them to come up with any new dirt on Hillary because it’s already all been out there for years.
    It will be curious to see if the billionaires are willing to put up as much cash as they did in 2012 since their success was so dismal.

  5. James Pearce says:

    @edmondo:

    Wasn’t she coronated in 2008 too?

    No, “the Messiah” crushed her. Republicans underestimated him too.

  6. gVOR08 says:

    If they haven’t learned a lesson from consistently underestimating Barack Obama and getting burned for it, why expect them to smarten up now?

  7. stonetools says:

    I think the Republicans have been well aware for some time that Clinton is their most formidable opponent , which is why to the extent they’ve focused on the Democratic nominees, they’ve exclusively bashed Clinton.
    Their problem is that apart from scandal mongering, they don’t really have much. Clinton is simply more qualified, and a better campaigner, than any Republican challenger. A lot will depend on the economy. If the economy continues to grow slowly and steadily, and still on the uptick comes next October, Obama’s approval ratings will be good and the polls about the nation being on the wrong track will turn around . Heck, a big chunk of the “wrong trackers” feel that way because a black man is still in the White House, so they will change their mind about the “wrong track ” stuff as they look forward to him leaving.
    Anyway, I hope they continue to underestimate Clinton. They underestimated Obama, and look how that turned out.

  8. Just 'nutha ig'rant cracker says:

    The right wing nut jobs who believe that Hillary is doomed are also the ones who believe that Trump is the greatest politician and most formidable mind that the nation has ever seen, so I remain skeptical of everything they say just on principle.

  9. michael reynolds says:

    The right track/wrong track number is bullshit, of course. It’s simply not fashionable to praise anything. It’s the equivalent of asking a teenager how their day was. “You know, whatever, same.”

    Its no more useful than head-to-heads of potential candidates in the general.

    One note: the electoral college favors the Democrats but not because of over-representation. In fact the electoral college gives undue weight to Potemkin states like Wyoming, where no one lives, but where they somehow have three electoral votes. If you went by percentage of the total population, Wyoming would have half an electoral vote.

    An awful lot of GOP electoral votes come from states that are way over-represented in the electoral college. Any state with fewer than about 3 million people is over-represented. And without this holdover from the original Constitutional compromises, the Republicans would have zero shot at the White House, and control of neither house of Congress.

    No wonder Republicans profess such admiration for the Founders: absent that unrepresentative, undemocratic fact, they’d be the permanent minority party. Of course even with that edge the Republicans can’t stop trying to disenfranchise minority voters.

  10. gVOR08 says:

    @michael reynolds: There’s also an issue of which wrong track. I firmly believe the country’s on the wrong track. How can you not see we’re on the wrong track with GOPs controlling congress and what is it, 25 states?

  11. Smooth Jazz says:

    “Republicans could still have a chance to beat her, of course, but to do that they’re going to have to do more than serve up a rehash of the Clinton Derangement Syndrome and scandal-mongering of the 1990s, because it’s pretty clear that voters aren’t going to go for that.”

    Spare me the Clinton Derangement Syndrome tears. You far left cranks were not much better with your Bush Derangement Syndrome and Palin Derangement Syndrome obsessions. The vast majority of the country thinks Mrs Clinton is a LIAR and dishonest. Last I checked 35% thinks she’s is truthful and her favorability ratings hover in the 35% – 40% polls. She will not be elected President with those kinds of negatives, no matter what the media sycophants in NY/DC corridor think.

    Mrs Clinton’s ratings are about where Gov Palin’s favorable ratings were in 2008 and far left blogs like this thought Gov Palin was scum. Keep deluding yourself if you think Clinton can win with favorability numbers in the 30% and when 2/3s of the country believes she is mendacious and about as honest as a used car salesman.

  12. humanoid.panda says:

    @Smooth Jazz:

    She will not be elected President with those kinds of negatives, no matter what the media sycophants in NY/DC corridor think.

    Smooth Jazz, 2012 edition:

    Finally, I and many other Repubs do not trust Bill McInturff or the news Division of the Wall Street journal. McInturff wants NBC/MSNBC $ and sponsorship and I wouldn’t put it past him to fall in line with his Obama pay masters at NBC/MSNBC, an entity known for doctoring tapes to push the Liberal agenda. Besides, McInturff is the classic “Inside the Beltway Repb” that sucks up to Liberals so they can get invited to DC/NY cocktail parties and get their $.

    he is not winning OH, not matter how many Dem 10%+ polls CNN trots out. Remember, it is barely 2 years since OH elected Gov Kasich & Sen Portman, and those Rep voters will be back out in force in 2012.

    President Romney,, Over and Out

  13. James Pearce says:

    @Smooth Jazz:

    She will not be elected President with those kinds of negatives, no matter what the media sycophants in NY/DC corridor think.

    You should check Trump’s favorability ratings….

  14. James Pearce says:

    @gVOR08:

    There’s also an issue of which wrong track. I firmly believe the country’s on the wrong track.

    The other angle on that….

    With gay marriage and legal weed, I’m glad there are some folks who think we’re on the wrong track. And I hope their tears burn.

  15. humanoid.panda says:

    @humanoid.panda: And I am not citing Smooth Jazz’s words of wisdom from 2012 to shame him for being wrong- everyone can be wrong sometimes. The problem with him, as is that, like so many republicans, is that when his mental model (only the liberal media’s spin is obscuring the Romney wave) collapsed, he did not reconsider it, but returned 3 years later with exactly the same line of BS.

    Also, Smooth Jazz, riddle me this: if the lie-beral media is in the tank for Hilary, how come it was the New York Times, and not the spirit of St. Breitbart patron saint of citizen-journalists , uncovered the email server story, and spent several months pushing it to the forefront of the media’s agenda?

  16. Smooth Jazz says:

    “You should check Trump’s favorability ratings….”

    I don’t like Trump. I think he is full of himself and buffoon. My preferred candidates are Dr Carson, Marco Rubio and Carly Fiorina. Not necessarily in that order. I can live with any of the 3, with any 2 on the same ticket.

  17. Smooth Jazz says:

    “Smooth Jazz, 2012 edition:”

    Well, DUH. That’s the ticket. So I wanted Romney in 2012 and he lost. BFD. In 2012 Pres Obama didn’t have honesty and favorability ratings in the 30s and 2/3 of the country didn’t think he was dishonest. Most people generally liked Obama as a person and his personal favorable ratings was generally in the 50% and above in 2012. Many people. including me, didn’t want him to be re-elected, but he never really had a reputation as a liar and huckster.

    I submit that if Trump is the nominee, Mrs Clinton will have a level playing field with a candidate as disliked as she is. But if it is one of the other Rep candidates, she will need to improve on her current reputation and a Liar and dishonest for her to have a chance – especially in a year where the Dems are the 2 term incumbent party and with so many voters in Both parties looking for an outsider.

  18. gVOR08 says:

    @Smooth Jazz: Once you nominated Mitt Romney you don’t get to complain about anyone else lying.

  19. stonetools says:

    @Smooth Jazz:

    So you actually think of Ben Carson as your preferred candidate for President of the United States. Says it all really.

    Here are five of Dr. Ben’s best quotes:

    1. “There comes a time when people with values simply have to stand up. Think about Nazi Germany. Most of those people did not believe in what Hitler was doing. But did they speak up? Did they stand up for what they believe in? They did not, and you saw what happened.”
    ~Ben Carson, comparing Democrats to Nazis, January 2014.

    2. “I mean, [America is] very much like Nazi Germany. And I know you’re not supposed to say ‘Nazi Germany,’ but I don’t care about political correctness. You know, you had a government using its tools to intimidate the population. We now live in a society where people are afraid to say what they actually believe.”
    ~Ben Carson, telling Breitbart News how America is like Nazi Germany because of liberals, March 2014.

    3. “ObamaCare is the worst thing that has happened in this nation since slavery. In a way, it is slavery, because it is making all of us subservient to the government.”
    ~Ben Carson, comparing healthcare to slavery during the Values Voter Summit, October 2013.

    4. “Because 9/11 is an isolated incident. Things that are isolated issues as opposed to things that fundamentally change the United Sates of America and shift power from the people to the government. That is a huge shift. You have to take a long-term look at something that fundamentally changes the power structure of America.”
    ~Ben Carson, claiming ObamaCare is worse than the 9/11 terrorist attacks that killed 3,000 Americans, June 2014.

    5. “I think what’s happening with the veterans is a gift from God to show us what happens when you take layers and layers of bureaucracy and place them between the patients and the health care provider. And if we can’t get it right, with the relatively small number of veterans, how in the world are you going to do it with the entire population?”
    ~Ben Carson, thanking God for dead soldiers in an attack on ObamaCare amid the Veteran’s Affairs military healthcare scandal in which veterans died waiting for medical care, Memorial Day Weekend 2014.

    Do you believe that what he saying is true and are you prepared to defend these quotes?

    Well, even if you are, the majority of Americans would rightly dismiss those sayings as nonsense. Even apart from these things, the man is completely unqualified to be President. Yet he is your top guy! Anyway, you just keep believing in him OK?

  20. James Pearce says:

    @Smooth Jazz:

    I don’t like Trump. I think he is full of himself and buffoon.

    I’m not very fond of Hillary Clinton myself, so I know what it’s like not to be sold on the front-runner.

    I’m not sure I agree with this:

    But if it is one of the other Rep candidates, she will need to improve on her current reputation and a Liar and dishonest for her to have a chance

    Once we get into Hillary Clinton versus Republican Nominee, the question won’t be who is the most honest candidate. It will be who is the candidate that is closest to your positions.

  21. DrDaveT says:

    @michael reynolds:

    Any state with fewer than about 3 million people is over-represented.

    Clearly, the solution is to create major urban centers in those states. I propose we do it by relocating the headquarters of several major executive agencies. Getting them away from DC can only help…

  22. DrDaveT says:

    @Smooth Jazz:

    Spare me the Clinton Derangement Syndrome tears. […] The vast majority of the country thinks Mrs Clinton is a LIAR and dishonest.

    Unintentional irony is the sweetest kind.

  23. DrDaveT says:

    @stonetools:

    Ben Carson, claiming ObamaCare is worse than the 9/11 terrorist attacks that killed 3,000 Americans

    Hey, the form of his argument was correct — he just dropped a sign somewhere. It happens to everyone. That’s why there’s peer review.

  24. humanoid.panda says:

    @Smooth Jazz:

    Well, DUH. That’s the ticket. So I wanted Romney in 2012 and he lost. BFD

    No, you didn’t only want Romney to win. You were convinced that he was going to win, and that anyone claiming otherwise was a hack, and that all media organs publishing polls saying he wasn’t winning are liberal liars.

  25. edmondo says:

    @James Pearce:

    No, “the Messiah” crushed her. Republicans underestimated him too.

    Oh, I’m pretty sure that the GOP got exactly what they hoped for.

  26. James Pearce says:

    @edmondo:

    Oh, I’m pretty sure that the GOP got exactly what they hoped for.

    Sure they did. That’s why they’re little balls of sunshine, not one angry bone in their body.

    You know what that is? Contentment.

  27. Franklin says:

    Rather than piling on, it’s worthwhile to briefly consider Smooth Jazz’s main point that a lot of people still don’t really *like* Hillary. This has been discussed here before, and personally I subscribe to Michael Reynolds’ theory which attributes it to sexism (she’s a bitch, amirite?).

    As for whether she’s a liar, I’d be curious to see the same question put to any well-known politician. Does the polling on Hillary significantly differ?

  28. irondog says:

    Republicans will twist election narratives (like pretty much every other narrative) to follow along with their own. Remember the good ole days of unskewed polling?

  29. Ben Wolf says:

    @James Pearce: A fair number won’t vote for either no matter what promises they make. Clinton is doing her best to keep me from voting Democrat by insinuating Sanders is a closet woman-hater; not surprising given her 2008 campaign’s role as epicenter of racist attacks against Obama but just as disturbing.

  30. James Pearce says:

    @Franklin:

    This has been discussed here before, and personally I subscribe to Michael Reynolds’ theory which attributes it to sexism

    I’m sure sexism does play a part for some people, but it’s too pat. I think most people who don’t like Clinton don’t like her because she’s a liberal.

    Me, I don’t like her because she was married to a previous president and, well, this is a big, diverse country that deserves better than Bush, Clinton, Bush, Obama, Clinton. Is that the best these generations can do, wittingly allow our highest offices to be held by two families?

    Like we think Americans a hundred years from now won’t look back on us and think we were fricking nuts.

  31. Gustopher says:

    I’m guilty of the opposite — I completely underestimate the Republicans at the Presidential level this cycle. Logically, I know that they stand a credible chance of victory, but I cannot see a single one of the actual candidates being victorious.

    Six months ago, I would have thought Paul, Rubio or Bush were all plausible, but they are having their butts handed to them on a daily basis by Trump and Carson. How can they recover from being dominated by the obviously unqualified?

    I think the Republicans best chance would be for Paul Ryan to suddenly drop his grudging bid for House Speaker to enter the Presidential race. Also, might be his only honorable way out of that trap.

  32. michael reynolds says:

    @James Pearce:

    I never subscribe to single motives for any human behavior. People are neither that simple nor that organized in their heads.

  33. Tyrell says:

    Sanders is getting more and more emotional, passionate, and emphatic. But he can not give Hillary another free “hall pass” like he did at the “debate” concerning the “e mail” fiasco. Sanders is also going to have to offer a tougher foreign policy than what Hillary has been selling.
    O’Malley: he tried a few jabs at Hillary yesterday, but he is going to have to go out on a limb, stake out some different positions, be bolder, and let the chips fall where they may. He is going to have to be more “Trump like”.
    If Hillary does manage to survive and win the nomination, she will have to move to the center, like Bill did. She can’t just write off the south and mid west.

  34. michael reynolds says:

    @Tyrell:
    Bernie Sanders and Martin O’Malley together, with help from The Incredible Hulk, could not stop Hillary from winning this nomination.

  35. Andre Kenji says:

    I know Hillary Clinton since I was a teenager, in Brazil. And like, there are lots of people that are not political junkies that know her and have opinions about her. She is a very known quantity for most people, for better or worse.

    I don´t think that she is a stellar candidate, but she would be running against people like Marco Rubio or Donald Trump, not Jack Kemp or Bob Dole.

  36. James Pearce says:

    @michael reynolds:

    People are neither that simple nor that organized in their heads.

    The first part is true. That second part is real wisdom.

    Bernie Sanders and Martin O’Malley together, with help from The Incredible Hulk, could not stop Hillary from winning this nomination.

    Ha!

  37. humanoid.panda says:

    @Ben Wolf: Nothing beats a true blue leftist who is so better that the rest of us centrist sellouts than taking his cues from Will frigging Saletan, the lord commander of moronic contrarian centrism.

  38. Kylopod says:

    @Smooth Jazz:

    Spare me the Clinton Derangement Syndrome tears. You far left cranks were not much better with your Bush Derangement Syndrome

    Bill Clinton left office amid the strongest economic growth in decades and a nation at peace. Bush left office amid two hapless wars one of which he started for no reason, and the greatest economic crash since the Depression. Clinton haters obsessed over the fact that Clinton couldn’t keep his slick willy in his pants while the country was doing pretty good. Bush haters obsessed over the fact that Bush practically destroyed the country and its standing in the world, and destabilized the Middle East.

    Tell me, which is more “deranged”?

    It’s kind of like comparing a phobia of snakes with a phobia of rabbits. Sure, both are irrational, but one has just a wee bit more grounding in reality.

  39. Mike in DC says:

    Doug, isn’t your list forgetting FDR/Truman? They were part of the pre-22nd amendment pack with Grant/Johnson/Lincoln and Theo. Roosevelt/Taft.

  40. Todd says:

    @Franklin:

    … point that a lot of people still don’t really *like* Hillary. This has been discussed here before, and personally I subscribe to Michael Reynolds’ theory which attributes it to sexism

    I’m one of the people on this site who thinks that Hillary Clinton’s “likeability” is a potentially big issue. But I call bullshit on the “sexism” charge. I honestly believe that we are already well past the point where we should have had a woman President. But I just as honestly believe/fear that Hillary Clinton will not be our first. She’s going to lose. I just hope it’s in the primary and not the general election.

    The headline of this post is very true; Republicans do underestimate Hillary Clinton. But the flip side is that too many Democrats are also irrationally overconfident about her general election prospects.

  41. Todd says:

    Funny thing about my position … “issue” wise, I’m almost certainly closer to Hillary Clinton on just about everything (I don’t consider myself a progressive at all). But I still believe that Bernie Sanders would be better for the Democrats in a general election. He will drive turnout, which will help not only the top of the ticket, but those too often ignored State and Local races which Conservative Republicans have dominated in recent years. Hillary Clinton has one thing going for her, that she would be the first woman President. Other than that, she is entirely uninspiring … and that’s a big problem for Democrats.

  42. stonetools says:

    Count me as one person who is unworried about the likability issue. First of all, I think most voters understand that a vote for the Presidency of the USA isn’t like a vote for student council president in high school. Things like competency and experience really matter. Moreover, people understand that these days when you vote for President you vote for a program.
    When Smooth Jazz talks about the importance of likability, I have to laugh. Back in the 1960s, tons of conservatives voted for Nixon, a man thought of as not being particularly likable or honest.Moreover, I’m old enough to remember when a major selling point for GWB was that he was that he was more likable then either Gore or Kerry. How did that work out for us?
    Finally, I’ve read countless posts by liberals who say that while they are Sanders supporters, they will crawl over broken glass to vote for Clinton in the general. There’s one thing I’m certain of -likability is not going to be a major factor in this election.

  43. gVOR08 says:

    @stonetools: I am reminded of ’08 when the supposedly liberal MSM had a running narrative that PUMAs (Party Unity My A), disaffected Hillary supporters, would scorn Obama. The typical interview with a supposed PUMA ran like – So are you disappointed Hillary lost? – Very, and angry. – So you’re going to sit it out and not vote for Obama? – Are you nuts? I’m going to send money to Obama, I’m going to knock on doors for Obama, and I’m going to vote for Obama.

  44. KM says:

    Ahhh…. the “likability” issue.

    Like is one of those English words that’s so fluid it’s essentially meaningless and yet is ever-present in descriptions. Like doesn’t not mean the following: prefer, love, total acceptance. Like means vaguely positive not-hate.

    I do not like work but I go to get paid.
    I do not like diets but my waistline thanks me.
    I do not like speed limits but I follow them and want other drivers to as well.
    I did not like my newest hire but offered him a job anyways as he is the most qualified candidate.
    I do not like Hillary but I will vote for her.

    None of the above statements are contradictory. Whether I personally like something has little to do with the necessity of the action or the desired outcome. Being able to look past personal opinions in order to function is the mark of an adult. We spend most of our childhood being trained to overcome this (“Eat your veggies! They’re good for you!” as spoken by every parent ever) and yet it’s held up as a major determinant in voting for the highest office of the land? Whether someone tickles my fancy is a serious criteria for being in charge of nukes, a standing army, trillions of dollars, and the ability to ruin the lives of millions via incompetency?

    There is only one question that matters: can you do the damn job without screwing us up? Yes or no? I’m perfectly comfortable sighing about that douche in the White House for years as long as said douche leaves office with us in better shape then they got it.

  45. stonetools says:

    One last thing about likability: it’s almost certain that Ben Carson is the nicest and most honest person among all the candidates running for President. Does that mean he will win or should win? The question answers itself.

  46. Todd says:

    @stonetools:

    Moreover, I’m old enough to remember when a major selling point for GWB was that he was that he was more likable then either Gore or Kerry. How did that work out for us?

    This supports my point, not yours. In 2000 and 2004 Gore and Kerry were almost certainly “better” on the issues (especially in 2004). Yet somehow neither was able to beat a President who will quite likely go down as one of the the worst in our history.

    The fact is, most voters do not pay enough attention for “issues” to matter much.

    When an incumbent is running for reelection, the campaign itself almost doesn’t matter … the trajectory of the economy all but determines the results before a single vote has been cast.

    In open years such as this, especially with not even the Vice-President running, it still won’t be about “issues”. The vast majority of voters, who are nothing like people who comment on this site when it comes to how much they pay attention to politics, will likely cast their vote for the person they “like” the most … or even more likely against the person they don’t “like”.

    In a rational world, nominating a candidate with upside down favorability numbers is foolish … even if the caveat is that most people expect (hope) the Republican nominee to be “worse”.

  47. Kylopod says:

    @Todd:

    This supports my point, not yours. In 2000 and 2004 Gore and Kerry were almost certainly “better” on the issues (especially in 2004). Yet somehow neither was able to beat a President who will quite likely go down as one of the the worst in our history.

    Yeah, because Bush was more “likable” than Gore, he was actually able to beat him by getting half a million fewer votes than him! The magic of charisma!

  48. stonetools says:

    @Todd:

    Remember that dull, unlikeable Gore won the popular vote in 2000.I also think that thanks to GWB, the MSM is really going to push against likability being an important factor in choosing a President next year. A big part of why things went badly for Gore was that the media harped on how boring and stiff he was ( they did that to Kerry too somewhat).
    I don’t see the media harping on personality so much this time around. The economy is still a crucial issue, the 2008 crisis is still a raw wound, and I don’t think the voters will have much time for talk about choosing candidates on the basis of how nice they are.

  49. al-Ameda says:

    @Smooth Jazz:

    Spare me the Clinton Derangement Syndrome tears. You far left cranks were not much better with your Bush Derangement Syndrome and Palin Derangement Syndrome obsessions.

    Two observations:
    (1) on Bush Derangement Syndrome – You’re exactly right, I was appalled when House Democrats impeached Bush, just because they could.
    (2) on Palin Derangement Syndrome – Actually, she, not the opposition to her, is deranged.

  50. DrDaveT says:

    @michael reynolds:

    I never subscribe to single motives for any human behavior. People are neither that simple nor that organized in their heads.

    This.

    Hillary Clinton’s public persona is not very likeable to begin with. To begin with, her affect is northeastern urban. That plays as a positive in the northeast, neutral on the coasts, negative in the midwest and rural west, and very negative in the south — and it’s nothing to do with her actual personality.

    She’s blunt; she’s not particularly eloquent. She does not suffer fools gladly. In a man, that might be neutral or even positive. We’re not an advanced enough society yet to not find it distasteful in a woman. That’s gut, not brain.

    She’s been cheated on by her husband, as publicly as possible, and stuck with him. Various people will see that as a strike against her, for a wide range of mutually incompatible reasons.

    She really mangled the handling of the email server thing, and (as best I can tell) still doesn’t get it.

    All of those are unimportant but cumulative reasons that people will hold back from throwing their efforts behind her campaign.

  51. Rafer Janders says:

    @stonetools:

    One last thing about likability: it’s almost certain that Ben Carson is the nicest and most honest person among all the candidates running for President.

    Oh, I don’t know about that. Nice and honest people don’t, as a rule, hold hateful opinions or spout nonsense in defense of them. No one can read or hear Carson’s bizarre, evasive non-replies to direct questions challenging the many outrageous things he’s said and characterize them as “honest.”

  52. Todd says:

    @Kylopod: Al Gore was a bad (and yes “unlikeable”) candidate who ran a horrible campaign to boot. The 2000 election should never have been close enough to be stolen.

    Hillary Clinton actually reminds me of Al Gore … up to and including the ways that she’s already trying to differentiate herself from a relatively successful President. Watch if she’s the nominee, how much do want to bet that President Obama will only be asked to campaign for her in States she’s likely to win anyway? No way they’ll want him anywhere near the “swing States” … where he might actually make a difference, but where they’ll be scared of turning off voters who are never going to vote for them anyway … ala former Senators, Lincoln, Nelson, Landrieu, and Pryor .. along with didn’t get elected Senator Lundergan-Grimes, and extremely lucky to still be a Senator McCaskill.

  53. RAGGEDT says:

    @DrDaveT says:

    This.

    Hillary Clinton’s public persona is not very likeable to begin with. To begin with, her affect is northeastern urban. That plays as a positive in the northeast, neutral on the coasts, negative in the midwest and rural west, and very negative in the south — and it’s nothing to do with her actual personality.

    She’s blunt; she’s not particularly eloquent. She does not suffer fools gladly. In a man, that might be neutral or even positive. We’re not an advanced enough society yet to not find it distasteful in a woman. That’s gut, not brain.

    Just because Hillary represented New York, it doesn’t mean she is “northeast urban.” Remember she grew up in Illinois suburbs and does have a Midwest appeal to her. That’s why she did pretty well in Upstate NY when she served in the Senate. That’s also why she won Pennsylvania and Ohio in the ’08 primary.

    I agree with you, though, that her bluntness doesn’t go over well given that she’s a woman. I disagree that sticking with Bill is a negative. The ones who would hold that against her are primarily hard-left feminists (who are more likely to go with Sanders anyway). There are many women (including Republican women) who understand the domestic politics that would encourage a woman to stay with a cheating husband.

  54. al-Ameda says:

    @Todd:

    Watch if she’s the nominee, how much do want to bet that President Obama will only be asked to campaign for her in States she’s likely to win anyway? No way they’ll want him anywhere near the “swing States” … where he might actually make a difference, but where they’ll be scared of turning off voters who are never going to vote for them anyway

    This … My thoughts exactly.

  55. Kylopod says:

    @Todd:

    The 2000 election should never have been close enough to be stolen.

    I agree. But what evidence do you have that it was his “unlikability” (as opposed to other reasons) that caused him to underperform? Try to put your preconceptions aside. It’s one of the oldest and most pervasive stereotypes about politics that voters go for the guy with the flashy smile but no substance. And the media was quick to embrace that stereotype in 2000, with all those stupid “Who would you have a beer with?” polls. In a way it was a self-fulfilling prophecy, because it drove the negative coverage of Gore that almost certainly was enough to swing an election ultimately decided by 500 people.

    But what evidence is there that voters in general actually vote that way? The funny thing is, Bush was never the standard image of a “charismatic” politician. I doubt he ever caused a tingling up anyone’s leg. In fact, he always seemed a tad goofy and weird.

    Furthermore, the entire career Richard Nixon should have permanently put to rest the notion that likability is of major importance in TV-era politics. Yet somehow people manage to draw exactly the opposite conclusion. The 1960 race is always presented as the ultimate example of the power of youthful charisma, but nobody ever seems to consider that despite all those qualities, JFK still very nearly lost to Nixon (and actually did according to some accounts). I think of that anecdote where someone told Bobby Kennedy shortly after the election, “You’re a genius!” and he replied “Change 60,000 votes and I’m a bum.”

    One of the most common fallacies of election analysis is to view elections in strictly binary terms, where either you win or you lose, and the outcome can be ascribed to one single monocausal explanation: “He lost because X.” In reality, election outcomes happen due to a tangle of complex factors working together. Hillary’s unlikability probably will lose her some votes. But it’s one factor among many, many others. In a very close race it could prove decisive. But however intuitive it may seem, there simply isn’t a shred of evidence that “likability” is anything close to the most important factor driving election outcomes.