Clinton’s Popularity Drops to 52% as 2016 Edge Shrinks

Hillary Clinton’s popularity continues to slide as she takes on a more political posture and Republicans raise questions about the deadly 2012 attack on a U.S. diplomatic post in Libya on her watch.

Fifty-two percent of Americans view the former secretary of state favorably, down from 56 percent in March and 70 percent in December 2012, according to the Bloomberg National Poll.

The decline means Clinton wouldn’t enter a possible 2016 race as a prohibitive favorite over key Republican rivals. While she still bests them in head-to-head matchups, she doesn’t have majority support against any of them.

Among likely 2016 voters, Clinton beats New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, 45 percent to 38 percent, the poll shows. When matched against Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky and former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, Clinton pulls 47 percent support compared with 38 percent for each of her opponents. Senator Marco Rubio of Florida registers only slightly weaker, drawing 36 percent backing to Clinton’s 47 percent.

In the March Bloomberg poll, Clinton was ahead of Christie among likely voters by 52 percent to 39 percent.

“Hillary Clinton may be suffering from contagion from President Barack Obama’s sinking scores. She is down across the board, even with groups that have been her most ardent supporters,” said J. Ann Selzer, who oversaw the poll. Obama’s favorability rating fell to 44 percent, the lowest mark of his presidency in the Bloomberg poll.

Still Electable

Clinton has suffered a rocky start to the rollout of her latest memoir, “Hard Choices.” She was criticized after one interview for a comment about her family’s financial struggles after her husband left the White House in 2001.

The good news, Selzer said, is the decreased favorability “doesn’t appear to affect her electability -- for now.”

The June 6-9 poll of 1,005 adults was conducted by Des Moines, Iowa-based Selzer & Co. and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.

Clinton wins the overwhelming support of women, while men are evenly divided. That’s true whether measured in terms of her own favorability or in head-to-head matchups with potential Republican opponents.

Women lopsidedly view her favorably, 61 percent to 31 percent; men see her unfavorably, by 49 percent to 43 percent.

Gender Measures

Among likely voters, all four of the Republican candidates gain about a 6-point edge with men and Clinton scores a roughly two-to-one margin with women.

Christie performs the best with likely female voters, losing to Clinton 53 percent to 34 percent, while Rubio does the worst, garnering just 28 percent backing compared with Clinton’s 56 percent.

Timothy Schnars of Erie, Pennsylvania, said he would vote for Paul over Clinton. Yet he would pick Clinton over Bush, Christie or Rubio, a position that he said owes more to the Republicans than to Clinton.

“I just don’t trust him,” Schnars, 52, said of Bush, adding that his lack of enthusiasm for Christie stems from “that bridge scandal” and that he doesn’t know enough about Rubio to “say one way or the other.”

Schnars isn’t alone in his unfamiliarity with Rubio. For all four of the Republicans measured in the poll, a sizeable portion of the public says they aren’t sure about rating them as favorable or unfavorable. In the case of Rubio, 49 percent say they don’t know enough to make that judgment.

Pluralities give unfavorable scores to Bush and Christie, at 37 percent and 38 percent, respectively.

Slump Predicted

Clinton and her supporters predicted the current slump in popularity three years ago, when she was still working for the Obama administration.

When a Bloomberg poll was released in September 2011, then-Undersecretary of State Ellen Tauscher discussed Clinton’s approval ratings with her on a ride from the Waldorf-Astoria in New York to a United Nations General Assembly meeting.

Driving through the blocked-off streets of Manhattan, Tauscher warned Clinton that her approval rating -- at 64 percent in that poll and well above Obama’s -- would fall quickly if Americans perceived her to be re-entering the political sphere.

Above Fray

Clinton tried to remain above partisan fights since leaving the State Department in early 2013. She traveled the country giving largely nonpartisan speeches for more than a year. Still, Tauscher’s prophecy is playing out as the former first lady’s book revives debate about her service in the Obama administration and what it means for her presidential ambitions.

As Clinton ponders her future, her book tour has produced a series of exchanges that could come back to haunt her in a political campaign.

In an interview with National Public Radio yesterday, Clinton snapped at host Terry Gross after she pressed the former first lady about when she had changed her mind from opposing gay marriage to supporting it.

“I’m just trying to clarify so I can understand,” Gross said after the two had gone a few rounds on the question.

“No, I don’t think you are trying to clarify. I think you are trying to say that I used to be opposed and now I am in favor and I did it for political reasons,” Clinton said. “And that’s just flat wrong. So let me just state what I feel like I think you are implying and repudiate it. I have a strong record. I have a great commitment to this issue and I am proud of what I’ve done and the progress we’re making.”

Political Pundit

Clinton also shifted into political pundit mode yesterday when asked about the June 10 defeat of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor in a Virginia Republican primary.

“I think it shows the continuing conflict within the Republican Party over its direction,” she said at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York. “That will be a challenge. It may not affect necessarily the outcome of the elections in November, we’ll see, but it will certainly have long-term implications for 2016 and maybe beyond.”

She also echoed a White House line that Cantor hurt himself by not supporting a revision of immigration laws to provide citizenship opportunities for some people who are in the country illegally.

“You need to be all-in and not try to be half-in, half-out,” Clinton said. “But I don’t know that we really can draw conclusions yet, other than it’s going to be an interesting leadership struggle within the Republican Party.”

(For more on Bloomberg polls, click here.)
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