- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 22, 2014

As Hillary Rodham Clinton prepares for an expected presidential run, perhaps her greatest asset — unmatched name recognition built over 25 years in the public eye — could become something of a liability.

Some political analysts say the former secretary of state runs the risk of seeming like old news by the time 2016 caucuses and primaries begin, with her celebrity standing and pop-culture status ultimately leading to fatigue among voters.

Indeed, there may be some evidence that the star of Mrs. Clinton, who would be launching her second White House bid in 2016, already could be fading.

A June 11 Gallup poll shows that Mrs. Clinton’s favorability rating has dropped to 54 percent, the lowest figure since 2008, when her first presidential campaign was coming to a close. During her four-year tenure as President Obama’s chief diplomat, her favorability rating consistently was around 65 percent, according to Gallup.

Other recent polls show even more of a decline, particularly over the past few months as Mrs. Clinton has re-emerged on the political scene.

An NBC/Wall Street Journal poll released last week — after Mrs. Clinton embarked on a book tour to promote her memoir “Hard Choices” — found the former first lady’s favorability rating has sunk to 44 percent, compared with 48 percent two months ago.

Despite those numbers, Mrs. Clinton, with her frequent appearances on the TV talk show circuit, is pushing herself on the public as hard as ever. But the media blitz may have negative consequences, some specialists say, especially since her popularity appears to have peaked.

“Hillary Clinton does have quite an extraordinary past of public service and general political engagement, but how much brighter can her star burn? To a certain extent, I think her greatest challenge is this sense of inevitability and supernova reputation that she’s acquired over the last few years,” said Lara Brown, program director at George Washington University’s Graduate School of Political Management.

The Clintons seem to understand the risk of overexposure. During an interview with CBS News this month, Mrs. Clinton conceded that “a lot of people have said” they’re sick of the Clintons, though she downplayed the significance of those feelings.

“That wouldn’t influence my decision one way or the other, because I think the voters have the right to choose whoever they want,” she said.

In addition to the sinking poll numbers, Clinton fatigue may be manifesting itself in other ways.

Mrs. Clinton’s media offensive, for example, hasn’t kept viewers glued to their TV screens. Her recent town hall event with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour came in a distant second in the ratings to Fox News programming, according to Mediaite.

When Mrs. Clinton appeared on Fox News’ “On the Record” last week, ratings dropped when Mrs. Clinton’s interview with Greta Van Susteren aired, then rose again when the next program began, Mediaite reported.

Reports also suggest animosity between the Obamas and the Clintons, which could complicate a Clinton campaign.

In journalist Edward Klein’s new book, “Blood Feud,” sources close to the Clintons recount what seems to be, at best, tension between the two camps. At worst, some of former President Bill Clinton’s comments express outright hatred.

“I hate that man Obama more than any man I’ve ever met, more than any man who ever lived,” Mr. Clinton said, according to excerpts of the book published by the New York Post.

Meanwhile, Mrs. Clinton’s “Hard Choices” sold well during its first week on the shelf, though it was only the second most popular hardcover book, losing out to the sci-fi romance novel “Written in My Heart’s Own Blood.”

Perhaps more important than the sales figures are the problems Mrs. Clinton has encountered on her book tour. Right out of the gate, she was widely mocked for claiming she and her husband were “broke” when they left the White House.

She also had a contentious interview with NPR, in which Mrs. Clinton defended her evolving opinions about same-sex marriage.

Last week, Jason Mattera, publisher of the website Daily Surge, approached Mrs. Clinton during a book signing and asked her to “make it out to Christopher Stevens,” the U.S. ambassador to Libya who was killed in the Sept. 11, 2012, terrorist attack in Benghazi.

Some other controversies also may be coming back to haunt her.

The Washington Free Beacon and The Daily Beast reported last week on Mrs. Clinton’s behavior surrounding her successful defense of a child rapist she apparently “knew” was guilty. A woman now in her 50s told The Beast that a young Hillary Rodham “took me through hell” in the 1970s criminal case by casting doubt on the 12-year-old girl’s mental stability. The defendant pleaded guilty to lesser charges.

Interviews recorded at the University of Arkansas and reported by the Free Beacon reportedly include Mrs. Clinton laughing about her client passing a polygraph and how that event “forever destroyed my faith in polygraphs.” The future first lady also laughs about a crime lab’s accidental destruction of DNA evidence.

The purported rape victim addressed Mrs. Clinton last week: “And you are supposed to be for women? You call that [being] for women, what you done to me? And I hear you on tape laughing.”

With her poll numbers dropping and negative publicity adding up, some political analysts question why Mrs. Clinton, 18 months before the first primary contests of the 2016 presidential cycle, would willingly put herself under such a bright spotlight and potentially cause voters to tune her out.

“Why would she do this given the potential of being oversold, especially if you’re such a familiar commodity? My best hypothesis is she’s figuring out for herself if she wants to” run for president, said Bruce Buchanan, a government professor at the University of Texas at Austin who specializes in presidential politics. “She’s getting her chops back in terms of being in the public and answering questions on the fly. I think that’s why she’s doing what she’s doing — what may not seem like a good strategic move at this point.”

Kellan Howell contributed to this report.

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