- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 9, 2015

As former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton prepares to announce her presidential run within days, her poll numbers in key states are moving in the wrong direction — down — and voters say they don’t trust her in the wake of an email secrecy scandal.

It’s an inauspicious start for Mrs. Clinton, who is poised to enter the race as the odds-on favorite for the Democratic presidential nomination but has suffered a blow to her credibility, and now is in tight races in theoretical matchups against almost every potential Republican rival.

News reports Thursday night said Mrs. Clinton may be ending her troubled pre-campaign stage more quickly than anticipated: The 67-year-old could officially enter the race on Sunday, the New York Daily News reported.

But the former first lady, senator and diplomat also will launch her second bid for the White House under intense pressure from the party’s liberal wing to adopt the leftist agenda championed by Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a Massachusetts Democrat who has resisted persistent calls from activists to challenge the more centrist Mrs. Clinton for the nomination.

Mrs. Clinton’s once-intimidating lead over the crowded Republican field has quickly evaporated in critical presidential swing states of Colorado, Iowa and Virginia, with newly announced Republican candidate Sen. Rand Paul surging past her in Colorado and Iowa, according to a Quinnipiac University Poll released Thursday.

Mr. Paul, Kentucky Republican, topped Mrs. Clinton 44 percent to 41 percent in Colorado and 43 percent to 41 percent in Iowa.

In those two states, all the potential GOP contenders were within 4 points of Mrs. Clinton, making the contests a statistical dead heat.

Mrs. Clinton had enjoyed wide leads in the same poll in February. That was before damaging revelations that she exclusively used a personal email account for official business while secretary of state and then destroyed all but select emails, which critics contend might have violated federal open records laws.

The email controversy came on the heels of a disclosure that the Clinton Foundation pocketed foreign donations while she was secretary of state, raising concerns about conflicts of interest that will continue to dog her on the campaign trail.

Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Poll, called Mrs. Clinton’s numbers “ominous.”

“It isn’t just one or two Republicans who are stepping up. It’s virtually the entire GOP field that is running better against her,” he said. “That’s why it is difficult to see Secretary Clinton’s slippage as anything other than a further toll on her image from the furor over her email.”

Voters in all three swing states said Mrs. Clinton is not honest and trustworthy. Colorado voters didn’t trust her 56 percent to 38 percent, the same for Iowans at 49 percent to 43 percent and Virginians at 52 percent to 40 percent.

Her overall favorability dropped significantly in Colorado and Iowa, while in Virginia it was unchanged.

Mrs. Clinton suffered similar setbacks in the swing states of Florida, Pennsylvania and Ohio in a Quinnipiac University Poll released March 31, with those voters also saying they now distrusted her and wanted more answers about her handling of email as secretary of state.

Mrs. Clinton held a press conference last month to say it was more convenient for her to mingle personal and official email in a single account while secretary of state, saying, among other things, that she didn’t want to carry two devices. Later she joked about the email controversy at a couple of tightly controlled public appearances in Washington.

Mrs. Clinton’s spokesman refused Thursday to answer questions about her poll numbers.

She is expected to launch her candidacy by April 18, most likely making the initial announcement via social media.

The countdown to the announcement began April 3, when her team signed a lease for a suite of offices in Brooklyn, New York, for her campaign headquarters. The expenditure triggered Federal Election Commission rules that require her to file candidacy papers within 15 days.

Political advisers agreed that Mrs. Clinton needs to start her campaign soon to regain her footing for the race.

“Right now, it’s a one-sided boxing match: As a noncandidate, Hillary Clinton is letting herself get punched in the face and not fighting back. It’s no surprise that the numbers are starting to reflect that,” Democratic campaign operative Christy Setzer said.

“Once Clinton launches her campaign, everything changes,” she said. “She needs to stay focused on her own message, don’t get rattled, and don’t resort to punching down at Rand Paul or Ted Cruz. As they say, you both get dirty, and the pig likes it.”

Greg Valliere, chief political strategist at the independent Potomac Research Group, said Mrs. Clinton needs to enter the fray because she is no longer the obvious favorite to win the White House.

“She needs to begin hitting back, telling her side of the story on the emails and the Clinton Foundation,” he said. “In the early stages of a campaign, the key is simply how the candidates are defined. She’s allowing the Republicans to define her, so these new polls aren’t surprising.”

Mr. Valliere warned that if Mrs. Clinton suffers more irksome revelations and slips further in the polls, Democratic Party insiders will take a careful look at alternatives such as Mrs. Warren or possibly Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, who is preparing for a long shot run for the nomination.

Mrs. Warren on Thursday ratcheted up the pressure on Mrs. Clinton to move to the left, saying it was “an interesting question at this point” whether Mrs. Clinton represented the future of the Democratic Party.

“I think we have to see, first of all, if she declares, and what she says she wants to run on,” Mrs. Warren said on “CBS This Morning.”

Mrs. Warren has resisted an aggressive campaign to draft her into the race, but she has backed a push by Progressive Change Campaign Committee to get Mrs. Clinton and other Democrats to adopt “big, bold, economic-populist” ideas.

Those ideas mirror Mrs. Warren’s agenda, including addressing income inequality, breaking up big Wall Street banks, expanding Social Security benefits and creating “debt-free college.”

David Sherfinski contributed to this report.

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