The one, and really only, hit angle that the Republican Party has to come at 2016 Democratic presidential contender Hillary Clinton with is the sleaze factor.
It goes like this: Hillary, and by extension her husband, Bill, have a long and checkered history of shady dealings, conflict of interest shenanigans, financial nest-feathering and other improprieties. The new wrinkle is her supposedly blatant, gross and illegal use of her private email server to conduct sensitive State Department business during her tenure as secretary of state.
The message to voters is that she simply can’t be trusted in the White House. None of this is true. But, at first glance, recent polls do show that Hillary’s image as an upright, trustworthy presidential candidate has taken a walloping.
A Quinnipiac University poll is especially troubling. It found that less than 40 percent of voters said that she was honest. Among independent voters who can make or break a contender, the figures were even more abysmal. More than 60 percent of them said no, she couldn’t be trusted.
The Republican National Committee didn’t need polls to tell it that, maybe, just maybe, Hillary’s Achille’s heel could be getting enough voters to hold their noses at the thought of Hillary in the White House. Their game plan long before she declared her candidacy was quite simply to shovel out every tidbit of old and new dirt it could dredge up against her to torpedo her candidacy.
There will be a barrage of videos that they’ll push viral that will remind voters of the old scandals the GOP in the past worked over endlessly to nail Bill and Hillary. Then there will be lots of new ones that will make much of the continual carping about the dealings of the Clinton’s Foundation.
This has been a particular sore point for the Clintons. Her purported inflated speaking fees, the constant criticism that the foundation collects money from many dubious sources, and that it shamelessly uses the foundation to influence peddle both at home and abroad have all been used before and will be used again.
Some have been quick to latch onto a report that revealed that Bill was an honorary chairman of the scandal-plagued FIFA’s campaign to have the U.S. host the World Cup in either 2018 or 2022. The implication that Clinton’s name on FIFA’s bid for a World Cup host spot implies some kind of wrongdoing is absurd. But that’s less important than just tossing the innuendo out there.
The GOP isn’t banking solely on shoveling out dirt on Hillary to torpedo her candidacy. It also banks that the supposed baggage that Hillary carries renders her an astonishingly divisive candidate.
The checklist of the trumped-up scandals of the past from Whitewater to the Lewinsky scandal, her support of health care reform, which was the prelude to the much harangued Affordable Care Act; and most importantly her alleged cover-up of Benghazi.
There was little doubt that the first chance the GOP got it would seize on a real or manufactured Obama foreign policy mistake and make her their hard target. Benghazi proved to be the alleged flub and the GOP pounced. In August 2013, the Republican National Committee rammed the attack home with a half-minute clip of her Senate Foreign Relations Committee testimony earlier that year on the Benghazi attack. The aim as always was to embarrass and discredit her, not because of her alleged missteps as Secretary of State, but as a 2016 presidential candidate.
The big question is will any of this work? The answer is no. There are two things that back the no answer.
One is the near laughable circus of GOP presidential contenders. Topping the clown show is the Donald Trump embarrassment.
There are only three GOP contenders, though, who early polls show in a head-to-head match-up with Hillary have any chance. That’s Jeb Bush, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, and Florida Senator Marco Rubio.
Walker and Rubio have their own set of baggage, and little national name recognition. Bush has the towering millstone of the Bush name and that horrid legacy that will dog him.
The other is the rapidly changing voter demographics. African-American, Hispanics, LGBT, younger women and youth, and a decent percentage of middle-strata white workers are a virtual lock for Hillary. That is the vote coalition that powered President Barack Obama to his historic White House win in 2008 and re-election in 2012.
Hillary will have the solid backing of Obama to fire up the coalition for her. And she’ll almost certainly have her Democratic rival Bernie Sanders at her side in support if, as is likely, his much welcome, rousing, magnificent, populist economic and social justice campaign falls short. The additional plus is that Sanders will push Hillary to the left and this will be even greater incentive for the Democrats to mob the polls.
Hillary truly holds the big political cards in 2016. But that won’t stop the GOP with a big boost from some in the media that hang on every whiff of a scent of a Clinton scandal from hitting Hillary hard with the sleaze issue. It just won’t work.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. He hosts the weekly Hutchinson Report on KTYM Radio 1460 AM, Fridays at 9 a.m. and KPFK Radio 90.7 FM, Saturdays at 9 a.m.