I found an interesting fact nestled amongst the data contained in this latest Q-Poll. Many people are focusing on the fact that it shows a 5-way tie for the GOP nomination at this point, or the fact that Hillary is easily beating everyone except Rubio and Paul in head-to-head matchups. This is all interesting, but it is far too early in the process to draw any conclusions from head-to-head data until the race begins in earnest. Here, though, is some information that GOP candidates and pundits should take to heart.
American voters say 53 – 39 percent that Clinton is not honest and trustworthy, but say 60 – 37 percent that she has strong leadership qualities.
Pause for a second and digest that for a little bit. By a pretty sizeable margin, the American public has already baked into their perceptions of Hillary that she is a liar. That she does not deserve their trust. The 39 per cent who have not yet been convinced that Hillary is a liar are probably all either relatives of David Brock or people on his payroll. In spite of this fact, they are more or less comfortable with the idea of her being President. Comfortable pluralities of those polled thought Rubio and Paul were honest and trustworthy, yet Hillary still beat both of them in head-to-head matchups.
This is a message that I have been trying to beat home for years about the Clintons, and it appears to be just as true about Hillary as it was about Bill: you cannot kill a Clinton with scandals. Let me revise that slightly now – you cannot kill a Clinton with scandals, at least insofar as the scandal in question is primarily useful for illustrating the fact that Hillary is a liar. People know that already. They do not care.
Republican candidates and pundits have to learn to train their focus against Clinton elsewhere. To the extent that a scandal erupts, they must learn to resist the almost overwhelming temptation to use it to paint Hillary as a fundamentally dishonest person. Instead, the focus must be how the scandal reflects on her competency as a leader. While people already know Hillary is a liar, they are under the erroneous belief that she is good at running things, despite the overwhelming evidence to the contrary – from her disastrous tenure as Secretary of State, to her slow rolling trainwreck of a 2008 campaign, to her management of health care reform in the 90s, and so on.
The perception of Hillary Clinton as a competent person has persisted (I think) specifically because Republican punditry has insisted on focusing on her manifest dishonesty. Which, I know, is a natural temptation. Why focus on trivial things like the fact that she is bad pretty much every job she holds when there is convincing evidence out there showing that she has lied, schemed and manipulated her way through the last 20 years of her life and used her political success almost exclusively to enrich her personal pocketbook?
How is it even possible that the American public would not care about such a narrative?
Beats me, but I know this: they don’t.
So some reshaping of the narrative is in order. When it turns out that Hillary has hid her government emails on her own personal server, don’t focus on the fact that her explanations for this practice are absurd and obviously false. People know Hillary will lie and they expect it of her – pointing out that she has done it scores no additional points. Instead focus on the fact that this procedure has (as we know now) allowed foreign governments to easily hack into what should have been secure State Department communications. The fact that the Clintons have lied to the public (and the Obama administration) about what they would disclose with respect to the Clinton Foundation is definitely an interesting sideshow, but the more politically relevant thing might just be how poorly the organization was run and how embarrassingly incompetent their coverup attempts were. And so on and so on.
That is not to say that it isn’t worth it to point out when Hillary Clinton lies, which she is pretty much guaranteed to do almost every time she opens her mouth. There’s no harm in periodically reinforcing what everyone already knows to be true. However, it is long past time to shift the focus to something that apparently matters to the American people, and something that Republicans have too long allowed to go unaddressed.
It’s time to point out that in addition to being a liar, Hillary Clinton is a terrible and incompetent leader. The American people are, for better or worse, ready for another lying Clinton in the White House. They should be warned about the fact that this one will be in over her head from day one on the job.