The recent Quinnipiac University poll on likely 2016 presidential candidates seemingly had some good news for the GOP and bad news for thousands of Democrats. The poll found that Hillary Clinton's popularity had nose-dived nearly 10 percent in the past few months. The poll even gave Kentucky Senator Rand Paul and Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush backers some hope. In a head to head match up with Clinton they were in striking range of her in vote comparisons.
This is heady stuff for two rumored GOP presidential candidates who were widely viewed as candidates with too little national appeal, too on the fringe politically and one, too straight-jacketed with the name Bush. The only other Democrat mentioned as a possible 2016 presidential candidate was Vice President Joe Biden. His rating plunge was high-speed downward. So much so that Paul and Bush in a hypothetical match up would trounce him.
Clinton's popularity drop was not much of a surprise for reasons that tell much about the GOP and Hillary. The GOP zeroed in on her in a clumsily designed stealth campaign long ago with one aim, and that was to knock her out the box as a viable presidential candidate in any season. The campaign began during Hillary's years in the White House with then-President Bill Clinton. The attacks from Whitewater to the Lewinsky scandal on Bill as well as in the carping, digs, and finger-pointing, and investigations of and at him, Hillary's name was often as prominently mentioned as Bill's. The aim was to implant in the voting public's mind that Hillary was a co-partner, even co-conspirator, in the alleged wrong doings the GOP tried to pin on Clinton. This was done with a long-range eye on a future Clinton presidential candidacy.
The hits on her accelerated when she tossed her hat in the presidential ring in 2008. The GOP dredged up all their old manufactured Clinton dirt. Some thought that this would make her an easy mark if she won the Democratic presidential nomination that year. But other party insiders thought the opposite. That is that Clinton would have been even more formidable than Obama primarily because of her appeal to women and the blue-collar Democrats who had doubts and ambivalence about voting for an African-American presidential candidate. Obama's win didn't totally dispel that fear. He still did poorly among white male, blue-collar voters in several swing states. This was the case again in his re-election win in 2012. The women and white male blue-collar voters in those states are still crucial to a Democratic presidential candidates' White House success.
There's more, though, to the GOP's worry about Clinton than her appeal to two key voting blocs. The more is Hillary. Millions still have a deep respect, admiration and appreciation for her tireless work as a women's rights advocate, her fight for health care reform, civil rights and international diplomacy. Before the Democratic Party leadership and much of the media abandoned her in 2008, she was the clear presidential choice of most rank and file Democrats and millions of voters who spanned all racial and ethnic lines. Despite being outgunned and out spent during the primary campaign war with Obama, she still retained much of that support.
Her positions on health care and corporate reform, her mea culpa for her early support of the Iraq war and willingness to oppose it later, her experience in international relations, and her hands on administrative experience in White House policy affairs insured the allegiance of millions of voters to her. She was then the one sure Democrat who could beat any GOP contender, and hit the ground running once in office. Millions of women also saw Hillary as the gender Obama. Her presidency would have marked a historic presidential breakthrough for women. She would have been a role model and inspiration for millions of women young and old. She would have proven that women can hold the world's top political power spot and govern as well if not better than a man. Her administration would have been savvy, moderate and capable of skillfully navigating and winning the blood battles with Congress.
President Obama recognized Clinton's prodigious ability and the experience that she would bring to any administration post. She proved invaluable as his Secretary of State in shoring up his then paper-thin resume on foreign policy issues. During her tenure at the State Department, Hillary maintained a steady but quiet profile, as the voice for Obama administration foreign policy.
She was not forgotten by the GOP, though. There was little doubt that the first chance the GOP got, it would seize on a real or manufactured Obama foreign policy flub and make her their hard target. Benghazi proved to be the alleged flub and the GOP pounced. The aim as always was to embarrass and discredit her not because of her alleged missteps as Secretary of State, but as a 2016 presidential candidate.
This proved again that Clinton is the one Democrat most feared by the GOP in 2016. And with good reason -- if she runs, she can win. That's why the GOP's Hillary hits won't end.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. His new e-book is America on Trial: The Slaying of Trayvon Martin (Amazon). He is an associate editor of New America Media. He is a weekly co-host of the Al Sharpton Show on American Urban Radio Network. He is the host of the weekly Hutchinson Report on KTYM 1460 AM Radio Los Angeles and KPFK-Radio and the Pacifica Network.