- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 2, 2015

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

ANALYSIS

With her poll numbers plummeting and upstart candidates deciding she’s not unbeatable after all, Team Hillary is beginning to lower expectations for the once-inevitable Democratic nominee.

Already this week, a top Clinton campaign official has noted that no candidate has topped 50 percent in the Iowa caucuses or New Hampshire. And on Tuesday, Paul Begala, a former adviser to President Bill Clinton and early supporter of Hillary’s 2008 run, said the former Scecretary of State will not waltz into the nomination.

“This is a 50-50 thing,” Begala said on CNN. “It’s going to be a very, very tough race. She’s going to have a real challenge for her party’s nomination, although that doesn’t show in the polls yet. It will. 

“And when it does, let’s not get our panties in a wad. Let’s say, ‘Hey, Begala told us this was coming months ago.’ It’s a tough country, it’s a tough race, it’s going to be very close,” he said.

The “prediction” came on a day when a new CNN poll showed Hillary was already plummeting in the minds of voters. Nearly 6 in 10 (57 percent, up 8 points from the last survey) think Hillary Clinton is dishonest and untrustworthy, the poll found. Exactly half agreed that she does not inspire confidence, up 8 points.

Begala bristled when asked whether Hillary’s plunging poll numbers weren’t caused by her Clinton Foundation scandal or the fact that she dodged the press for the more than a month after announcing her run.

“I don’t see any connection with stiffing the press. Sorry, I don’t mean to be mean. If there’s anything voters hate more than politicians it’s the press,” Begala said. “It is much less that than just the mere fact that she’s a politician.”

But at least two other politicians — Sen. Bernie Sanders and former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley — are not suffering the same fate as Clinton. Sanders has been drawing huge crowds to his campaign events, and while O’Malley only registers at 1 percent on the CNN poll, he only announced on Saturday, at a packed event in Baltimore.

The same downplaying came Monday in a Clinton campaign email to reporters announcing her “official” campaign launch on June 13.

After listing the nuts and bolts of the event (“Mid-day on Saturday, June 13th, Hillary Clinton will give her official campaign launch speech”… “Saturday evening, Hillary Clinton will speak with key volunteers and supporters at an organizing meeting in Iowa”), the email from Jesse F. Ferguson, deputy national press secretary, included a couple of odd bullets.

“· In Iowa, no Democratic candidate for president has ever received more than 50% of the caucus vote unless they were a sitting President or Vice-President, or incumbent Iowa Senator.

“· In New Hampshire, no Democrat in a contested primary in the last 25 years has won by more than 27,000 votes or received more than 50% of the vote. Even running unopposed in 2012 as the incumbent president, President Obama received around 80% of the primary vote.”

The bullets seemed to answer an unasked question, or at the very least address the whispers that Hillary is highly beatable. And of course, there’s 2008, when Hillary was the presumptive nominee for more than a year — until an upstart named Barack Obama came along.

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