How Hillary Is Winning

Written by  //  May 9, 2015  //  Politics, U.S.  //  Comments Off on How Hillary Is Winning

Hillary Clinton’s strongest advantage isn’t her war chest, fame or gender. It’s Republicans.
Frank Bruni, op-ed columnist

Hillary Clinton(NYT) AS fleetly as Hillary Clinton vacuums up the money, she piles up the paradoxes.
She showed fatal weaknesses the last time she chased the presidency and her inevitability evaporated like a California puddle, but she’s somehow inevitable all over again. Invincible, even. Journalists have to remind themselves daily not to type or say “presumptive Democratic nominee” before her name.
She’s fashioning herself as someone uniquely attuned to “everyday Americans” while her husband fashions $500,000 speeches as amulets against the bill collector. Someone’s got to pay for the burrito bowls.

And her Republican rivals convince themselves that “I’m not Hillary” is their strongest argument and best bet, although the reverse holds true. At least for now, not being any one of them is her ace in the hole.

The 2016 race in its adolescence is between the dependably messy, perpetually maddening spectacle of the Clintons and a party with a brand-decimating profusion of mad hatters like the two who announced their bids and grabbed the spotlight last week, Mike Huckabee and Ben Carson.

Advantage: Hillary Clinton.

That’s a clear takeaway from several surveys of voters released last week. They showed that despite her email shenanigans, despite the ethical muddle known as the Clinton Foundation, despite the growing confusion about whether the Hillary Clinton of 2016 will be of an ideological piece with the Hillary Clintons of yesteryear, voters will gladly take her, considering the alternatives.

According to an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, she was six points ahead of Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio in head-to-head contests with either. She was 10 points ahead of Scott Walker.

Inexplicably and rather alarmingly, she was only three ahead of Rand Paul. The mysteries of the American electorate are boundless.

Meanwhile a New York Times/CBS News poll found that over the past month and a half, during which she weathered a veritable hurricane of negative news coverage, her favorability rating improved, and the percentage of voters who see her as a strong leader rose to 65 from 57. Nearly 80 percent of the Democrats surveyed deemed her honest and trustworthy.

There are many explanations. For starters, the hurricane I mentioned was experienced as a drizzle, if that, by many Americans, who aren’t exactly riveted by political news. Inasmuch as they notice journalists pouncing on the Clintons, they’re apt to shrug. The substance of the accusations is eclipsed by the familiarity of the tussle. It’s like lions on an impala: bloody, yes, but the natural order.

And the Clintons are being accused of what? Greed? There’s plenty of that to go around. Just ask Huckabee, a self-styled man of God and slave to Mammon.

As recounted by Trip Gabriel in The Times, Ron Fournier in the National Journal and Max Brantley in Salon, he’s a case study in financial high jinks, a master class in shamelessness. He reportedly used the Arkansas governor’s office “as a personal ATM,” in Fournier’s description, channeling public money toward private expenditures (a doghouse, Taco Bell) and accepting tens of thousands of dollars in highly questionable gifts, some from people who later received prominent political appointments.

More recently he did an infomercial hawking dietary supplements as a diabetes cure, even though reputable physicians and medical associations call it poppycock. Only three of the following four adjectives correctly describe that decision: tacky, mercenary, irresponsible and presidential.

Clinton benefits from not being Huckabee, who described Obamacare’s contraception provision as a big-government sop to women who can’t “control their libido,” blamed an absence of God in schools for the deadly shooting rampage in Newtown, Conn., in 2012 and then proceeded to write a book with a title that put firearms on a comforting par with breakfast food. Run, don’t walk, to pick up your copy of “God, Guns, Grits, and Gravy.”

Clinton also benefits mightily from not being Carson, who has lumped together homosexuality and bestiality and has likened Obamacare to slavery, President Obama to a psychopath and the United States under President Obama to Nazi Germany. It is said that Carson is a talented brain surgeon. I’m taking my cerebellum elsewhere if it ever comes to that.

And Clinton benefits as well from not being Carly Fiorina, who also declared a candidacy for the presidency last week. When Americans look askance at professional politicians, it doesn’t mean that they long for the polar opposite and are poised to award the presidency to someone who, in Fiorina’s case, has never held elected office, routinely failed to vote in the past, bungled her role as a surrogate for John McCain in 2008, had a miserable showing in her 2010 race for the United States Senate against Barbara Boxer, and claims a business expertise that’s long been in vigorous dispute. Her campaign will be powered by hubris, not logic.

REPUBLICANS crow about their deep bench. And they do have some formidable candidates, including Marco Rubio, who is an anti-Hillary in ways that could indeed work for him, and Jeb Bush. But Rubio and Bush share the bench with an unruly crowd that pulls them and the party too far to the right.

Republicans also take heart from their majority in the Senate and their greater number of governors. But voters behave somewhat differently in presidential elections than in other ones, which is one reason Wisconsin has remained blue even during Walker’s red reign.

The party’s image hasn’t gone through the intended upgrade after its defeat in 2012. According to the Times/CBS poll, just 29 percent of Americans now view Republicans favorably, though 43 percent feel that way about Democrats. That number is unlikely to improve much with the likes of Huckabee, Carson, Ted Cruz and Rick Santorum roaming Iowa and foaming at the mouth.

Besides, these two words come into play: Supreme Court. I know voters who’d give more consideration to Rubio, Bush, Chris Christie or John Kasich if they didn’t fear the kind of jurist one of them might nominate at the behest of the religious right. And the next president could easily wind up filling two vacancies on the high court.

That thought is the soil in which love for Hillary Clinton flowers. It’s a prompt for people who otherwise suffer bone-wearying Clinton fatigue to focus on her unquestioned smarts over her questionable scruples, her experience over her i.o.u.s, her sturdiness over her slipperiness. There’s a case to be made for her, and there’s motivation to make that case.

In another recent poll, by CNBC, she was the preferred candidate of voters with a net worth of $1 million or more. Apparently they, too, have made peace with her. Or maybe they just recognize a kindred spirit.

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