As Hillary Rodham Clinton addresses the Democratic National Committee summer meeting in Minneapolis this week, it’s a good opportunity to take stock of a faltering campaign. How badly are things going for Clinton right now?
Vice President Joe Biden is leaning toward joining the race, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal. When she announced her candidacy in April, Clinton was considered nearly unbeatable, her campaign perceived as more of a coronation than a real nomination contest. Biden, who met recently with liberal Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, will appeal to Democrats increasingly alarmed by Clinton’s weakness. Vermont socialist Bernie Sanders, expected to mount only a symbolic campaign, has electrified liberals and attracted huge crowds from coast to coast. He’s even surpassed Clinton in polls in New Hampshire, home to the nation’s first primary.
Clinton, despite an FBI probe of her use of a private server as secretary of state, joked about her e-mail practices. “You may have seen that I recently launched a Snapchat account,” she told a group of Iowa Democrats. “I love it. I love it. Those messages disappear all by themselves.” Even some Democrats thought it unwise to joke about such a serious subject. Former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell called it “tone deaf.”
The situation is no laughing matter to investigative reporter Bob Woodward, who has likened Clinton’s private e-mail usage to the Watergate scandal. Woodward noted, “You’ve got a massive amount of data. It, in a way, reminds me of the Nixon tapes: thousands of hours of secretly recorded conversations that Nixon thought were exclusively his.”
With her ethical baggage and status as the candidate of the past, Clinton looks to be an albatross for Democrats in the suburbs and in Greater Minnesota. June polling from the Minnesota Jobs Coalition by the Tarrance Group underscored Clinton’s vulnerability in a general election. A poll of 600 “likely” voters in swing legislative districts found that Minnesotans are not ready for Clinton. While Gov. Mark Dayton maintained an approval rating of 51 percent, Clinton’s approval rating was just 35 percent; her disapproval rating was 49 percent.
Since then, Clinton’s public image has worsened. Judging from recent polling by Public Policy Polling, she’s in real danger of losing Minnesota, the only state carried in every presidential election since 1976 by the Democratic nominee. Four GOP candidates trailed her by either one or two points. An eye-popping 55 percent of respondents expressed disapproval of Clinton; just 38 percent approved. With no gubernatorial or U.S. Senate race on the statewide ballot for the first time in 12 years, the top of the ticket matters more than ever because of its influence on legislative races.
The economy is increasingly uncertain. The Dow Jones industrial average has dropped more than 3,000 points (8 percent) since hitting an all-time high in May. On Tuesday, the Dow recorded its largest point swing since October 2008. For the party in the White House, such headlines can only cause heartburn.
In 2012, Barack Obama won Minnesota by nearly 8 percent. He carried 68 state House districts. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney carried 66 state House districts. A closer presidential race this time around bodes well for GOP legislative prospects.
For the former secretary of state, her bid for Obama’s third term is not off to a strong start. With a badly damaged and deeply polarizing Clinton at the top of the ticket amid real economic anxiety, the DFL brand could be toxic in swing legislative districts around the state.
Mark Drake is president of the Minnesota Jobs Coalition and a former communications director for the Republican Party of Minnesota.