Monday, June 18 , 2018, 2:22 pm | Fair 69º


Susan Estrich: Despite Missteps, Hillary Clinton Marching Toward a Majority

Hillary Clinton doesn’t stumble.

​That was, essentially, the headline for the big New York Times poll out last week. It was supposed to measure how much Hillary and her team’s stumbles on the issue of her private email server had hurt her. Just how much did her favorability drop? Essentially, not at all. 

Now, surely part of it is the simple truth that most of us should spend more time than we do paying attention to the fact that our work email belongs to our employer, not us, and is most assuredly not private.

I heard a few people wondering why Hillary hadn’t had a super-private email account for years. You’d think. I mean, is this really the one Bill Clinton uses?

But forget about that, because no one cares. Now if it came out that Jeb Bush had used a private account while he was Florida governor, or that Rand Paul was using one now along with his Senate office server, would people care?

They very well might. The less you know about a person the more each individual piece of information matters.

The challenge that challengers always face is to define themselves before their better known opponent defines them — an especially difficult challenge because defining yourself generally means spending a lot of money, and raising a lot of money often requires that you already have defined yourself as a possible winner.

Hillary is many things to many people, but almost no one will say they don’t know her. While the campaign “curtain raiser” pieces all talked about rebranding Hillary, a lot of that came down, as it has for so long, to the critical issues of hair length and style and black suits versus the colored ones.

Rebrand Hillary Clinton? Really? You can portray the “grown-up” version, show how she has evolved from hair bands to hair back, but the idea that Hillary has secrets no one knows is mostly accepted only by those so obsessed with Clinton lore that they wouldn’t vote for her anyway.

I’m not saying the Clinton-haters have disappeared. I remember them well, if not always fondly, from my 2006 book tour promoting my pro-Hillary book.

But even then, the audience was beginning to lose interest in questions about a bank deal that took place in the last century involving people who are either dead or out of the public eye and a law firm they’ve never heard of that Hillary hasn’t worked for in decades. Nada. Ancient history.

The electorate almost certainly contains more people right now who wouldn’t vote for Hillary if she were the only candidate on the ballot than any other candidate. But that’s because they don’t know the others.

What’s striking about Hillary’s unfavorability is that it appears to have stopped moving. If you don’t like her, you don’t like her. In my years of supporting the Clintons, I have found that it’s just not worth it to try to convince Clinton-haters to change their minds. They won’t.

Why would they? For many, it’s a matter of belief, almost like religious conviction, rather than the usual political judgment.

But here’s the thing: Hillary Clinton doesn’t need the Clinton-haters to get elected. She just needs the folks who haven’t been turned against her, even by 20 years of nonstop attack politics. And when you think of it that way, a majority is not far away.

Susan Estrich is a best-selling author, the Robert Kingsley Professor of Law and Political Science at the USC Law Center and was campaign manager for 1988 Democratic presidential nominee Michael Dukakis. Click here to contact her or click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are her own.

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