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Clinton’s Top Career Negative Seen as Benghazi, Pew Poll Shows

Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton
Then U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton listens to a question during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 23, 2013. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

Americans cited “Benghazi” as the most glaring negative on former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s political resume, while more than two-thirds approved of her performance as America’s top diplomat, a poll shows.

Fifteen percent of those surveyed identified the Sept. 11, 2012, killing of four Americans at a U.S. compound in Benghazi, Libya, when asked to name the worst thing about the career of Clinton, a possible 2016 Democratic presidential candidate, according to the Pew Research Center/USA Today poll released yesterday.

“Bill Clinton/husband’s affair” came in at No. 2, with 9 percent of respondents choosing that as her top negative. Eighteen percent answered “nothing.”

Republicans have criticized the Obama administration’s reaction to Benghazi -- at first erroneously saying it was a spontaneous assault rather than a planned terrorist attack -- in a series of congressional hearings.

They’ve also found fault with Clinton’s response at one of those hearings: “What difference at this point does it make?” she asked about whether the attack was planned or spontaneous.

The poll found that fewer people view Clinton’s gender as a negative than in 2008, when she lost the Democratic presidential nomination to Barack Obama. In January 2008, 35 percent of those polled said being a woman hurt her, while 20 percent now say it would harm her presidential aspirations.

More than half of respondents said they’d like her to run for president in 2016, including 76 percent of Democrats and 26 percent of Republicans. Among independents, 45 percent said they’d like her to run and 48 percent said they wouldn’t.

Clinton, who retired last year as secretary of state, has said she will make her decision on 2016 later this year.

Democrats and Republicans alike view her as “tough,” according to the poll. In all, 67 percent of Americans approve of the job she did in that position.

The poll of 1,002 adults ages 18 and older and living in the U.S. was conducted Feb. 27-March 2 in telephone interviews. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.6 percentage points.

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