One Bit of Good News for Hillary Clinton
By JOHN L. MICEK
October 31, 2016
After months of controversies for both Democrat Clinton and Republican Donald Trump, voters have become nearly anesthetized to even the faintest whiff of scandal.
They are alternately so faithful to their favored candidate and so openly hostile to the competition, that nothing can change their views.
Remember how Trump's insane decision to pick a fight with a Gold Star family was supposed to tank his candidacy? Or how allegations of pay-to-play at the Clinton Foundation were going to destroy Clintons' White House hopes?
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With Election Day closing in and with Clinton and Trump fighting over an ever-vanishing share of the electorate, public opinion on the two candidates is now so entrenched that even the most explosive of revelations seemingly has little effect on their fortunes.
Six in 10 voters (60%) viewed Clinton unfavorably in an ABC News/Washington Post poll released Monday, compared to 58 percent to Trump. Those views are deeply partisan, with 97 percent of Trump supporters viewing Clinton unfavorably, compared to 95 percent of Clinton supporters who see Trump the same way.
So a Fox News poll released Sunday showing nearly a third of respondents (34 percent) as less likely to vote for Clinton in the wake of the new email revelations seems more a momentary ripple in sentiment than a long-term risk.
Earlier this month, in the wake of the release of the "Access Hollywood" tape that found Trump making lewd remarks about women, just a third of respondents to an ABC/Washington Post poll said they'd be less likely to support him.
Over the weekend, CBS pollsters went back into the field to reinterview some respondents after Comey dropped his bombshell. They found a quarter of respondents across 13 battleground states (26 percent), mostly Republicans, said they would be less likely to support Clinton, while 13 percent (primarily Democrats) said they would be more likely to support her.
And a majority of Democrats (50 percent) said the new developments would have no impact on their feelings about Clinton, while nearly as many Republicans (47 percent) said the same thing.
Which isn't to say that Clinton and her lieutenants aren't justifiably outraged as Comey's last-minute announcement which was, at minimum, hopelessly irresponsible or, at an unlikely maximum, a possible violation of the Hatch Act, which bars government employees from interfering in elections.
Trump, of course, is trying to keep the focus on Clinton's woes, all the better to distract attention away from the problems afflicting his own campaign.
Over the weekend, he pronounced the controversy "bigger than Watergate."
Writing in The New York Times, former Nixon White House lawyer John W. Dean, who knows from Watergate, said "Nuh-uh."
"Only someone who knows nothing about the law, and the darkest moment of our recent political history, would see a parallel between Nixon's crimes and Mrs. Clinton's mistakes," Dean wrote.
Clinton, meanwhile, campaigning in Florida, tried to put the blow-up into the rearview mirror.
"We won't be distracted, no matter what our opponents throw at us," Clinton said, according to The New York Times. "We're not going to be knocked off course. We know how much this election matters, and we know how many people are counting on us."
As the week wears on and more information emerges, and as voters and the candidates get a clearer picture of what Comey is after, there may be a further swing in public sentiment.
But right now, as far as their partisans are concerned, Trump and Clinton are both right.
© Copyright 2016 John L. Micek,
An award-winning political journalist, Micek is the Opinion Editor and Political Columnist for PennLive/The Patriot-News in Harrisburg, Pa.
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