A few weeks ago, I wrote a column about the excitement and strategy brewing behind Hillary Clinton’s 2016 “shadow campaign.”
Much has happened since then.
Among a string of public events highlighting her experience as a women’s and children’s advocate, including a keynote speech at EMILY’s List’s 30th anniversary (a political action committee which supports Democratic, pro-choice women candidates) and an address to the United Nations, the New York Times ran a story raising questions about Clinton’s use of a private email server during her time as Secretary of State.
At a press conference, the first in quite a while for Clinton, to address her decision not to use a government email account, one reporter asked if this would affect her decision of whether or not to run – a question Hillary didn’t bother responding to.
Certainly, many of Hillary’s opponents hoped this would hurt her in the polls. However as the news cycle changes, and it becomes increasingly clear that this “scandal” is one of principle rather than legality. Those who continue to argue its significance appear misguided. CNN currently found Hillary Clinton’s favorability rating to be at 53 percent, a double-digit edge over every member of the GOP presidential field. As of March 18th, the Republican bench is lead by former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee at 35 percent favorability (yes, the man who scolded the Obama’s for letting their children listen to Beyonce), with former Florida Governor Jeb Bush and Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky tied with 31 percent favorability.
Interestingly, this 53 percent favorability rating for Clinton is somewhat higher than other recent polls from before her emails were brought into question. Clinton’s favorability ratings have certainly been on the decline overall, however she left her post as Secretary of State with a staggering 69 percent approval according to a Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll, with only 25 percent of Americans disapproving of her performance.
“It’s even more problematic, however, to compare polls from November and March and attribute any changes that took place over a four-month period to the email controversy,” Brendan Nyhan wrote in the New York Times, “In reality, this comparison cannot distinguish between the effects of the email controversy and continuing decline in Mrs. Clinton’s favorability ratings as she transitions back into what she was before her stint as secretary of state: an intensely polarizing political figure.”
To summarize, Clinton remains unscathed. Reactions in her favorability have been highly, if not almost entirely, among party lines. Cary Gibson for US News writes that the email incident will have no long-term impact on her campaign but may leave a “scar,” however this is still nothing compared to what Clinton has endured throughout the years.
In my opinion, the press conference has showed her no-nonsense attitude. While some may consider it hawkish, I believe it shows a leader who is battle-tested. She’s a tough woman, and Americans like that. It is important to note, as well, that per the request of Clinton all her emails will be released to the public via a government website in the upcoming months.
And of course, Hillary still dominates among Democrats with an almost 50-point lead over Vice President Joe Biden, her “closest” potential primary challenger, 62 percent to 15 percent.
So, what has happened on the campaign-organizing front since mid-February? A lot. Clinton’s top advisors have all already put in their two-week notices, precluding an early April exploratory committee announcement. Predictably, it’s her communications team that has been assembled first. Brian Fallon, currently the top spokesman for the Justice Department, will be the Clinton team’s press secretary, two senior Democratic sources anonymously told the Washington Post. Fallon has told the Department of Justice that we will be leaving at the end of March.
“Brian Fallon is one of the smartest and most talented people who has ever worked for me and will serve Hillary Clinton extremely well,” Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, for whom Fallon was previously spokesperson, said.
Jennifer Palmieri, White House communications director, had her last day this Friday. The White House even tweeted a picture of her and President Obama, thanking her for her service. Palmieri, Fallon, and Jesse Ferguson (former Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee communications director, who will handle day-to-day press from the campaign headquarters) all are known as having established good relationships with members of the press.
“Dozens of campaign staffers, who have been sworn to secrecy after being notified that they were being hired, have been told to report to New York by late March,” CNN reported, with her team settling into a Brooklyn office where they have all but signed the lease. While April may be sooner than expected for some, it has certainly been proven that Hillary is ready to get back in the game and the field is ready for her.