Clin­ton sup­port­ers in Congress har­bor doubts amid slide

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY S.A. MILLER

Hil­lary Rod­ham Clin­ton’s back­ers in Congress put on a brave face Wed­nes­day as their Demo­cratic pres­i­den­tial can­di­date con­tin­ued her stun­ning slide in the polls, but some of them ac­knowl­edged worry spread­ing through the ranks.

Mrs. Clin­ton has launched an ef­fort to re­pair her im­age that has been dam­aged by the email scan­dal dog­ging her cam­paign. But a new poll showed lib­eral ri­val Sen. Bernard San­ders had edged past her to take a slim lead in Iowa. That put Mr. San­ders ahead in the first two nom­i­nat­ing con­tests: Iowa and New Hamp­shire.

“Of course I’m wor­ried, like ev­ery­one else,” said Rep. Karen Bass, a Cal­i­for­nia Demo­crat back­ing Mrs. Clin­ton.

She said she’s con­cerned that re­gard­less of how the email con­tro­versy plays out — whether with crim­i­nal charges or a find­ing of no wrong­do­ing — Mrs. Clin­ton’s foes will be able to la­bel her ac­tions as “reck­less.”

The con­tro­versy sur­round­ing Mrs. Clin­ton’s ex­clu­sive use of a pri­vate email ac­count for of­fi­cial busi­ness as sec­re­tary of state, and her clumsy han­dling of ques­tions about it, has con­trib­uted to her tum­ble in the polls.

As Mrs. Clin­ton strug­gled to change the sub­ject, the scan­dal grew to in­clude scru­tiny of her han­dling of clas­si­fied ma­te­rial and a fed­eral probe that con­ceiv­ably could lead to crim­i­nal charges.

Her lik­a­bil­ity num­bers have taken a big hit, with more and more Amer­i­cans say­ing they view her un­fa­vor­ably, and a ma­jor­ity of vot­ers say­ing they don’t trust her. The dis­trust has seeped deep into the party’s base, in­fect­ing mi­nori­ties and women vot­ers who are key to Mrs. Clin­ton’s strat­egy.

“The whole email thing is just — I hate to say this — ru­in­ing any cred­i­bil­ity she had with us work­ing-class moth­ers,” said Ericka Al­ston, the busi­ness de­vel­op­ment di­rec­tor for Penn North Com­mu­nity Re­source Cen­ter, a non­profit pro­gram in one of Bal­ti­more’s poor­est and most vi­o­lent neigh­bor­hoods. “The email thing is re­ally damp­en­ing how peo­ple see her.”

Rep. Charles B. Ran­gel, New York Demo­crat and long­time Clin­ton booster, said there was “no ques­tion” that the email scan­dal had hurt her.

“Opin­ions by most Amer­i­cas are not about is­sues but [if] you like the per­son. That’s what she’s work­ing on. … I know she’s try­ing,” he said, shak­ing his head. “I know she’s try­ing.”

Mr. Ran­gel knows first­hand about sur­viv­ing po­lit­i­cal scan­dal. In 2010 he was con­victed in a House trial of 11 ethics vi­o­la­tion and cen­sured, the high­est pun­ish­ment for a con­gress­man short of ex­pul­sion.

But Mr. Ran­gel, 85, re­bounded and twice won re­elec­tion in his Har­lem dis­trict.

He said that he didn’t have any ad­vice for Mrs. Clin­ton, who he said would have to find her own way out of the tan­gle.

“I don’t know what it is when you have to apol­o­gize for some­thing you say you didn’t do. And, quite frankly, if no one says she broke the law, and peo­ple keep ask­ing the same ques­tions — it’s a prob­lem,” said Mr. Ran­gel.

Mrs. Clin­ton re­versed course this week, stopped re­fus­ing to apol­o­gize and said she was “sorry” for the email setup she used as sec­re­tary of state.

The act of con­tri­tion was part of the cam­paign’s new strat­egy to soften Mrs. Clin­ton’s im­age, which in­cluded an ap­pear­ance on Ellen DeGeneres’ TV show that aired Wed­nes­day.

“I made a mis­take. I’m sorry about all the con­fu­sion that has en­sued. I take re­spon­si­bil­ity for that,” she said on the day­time talk show.

She also danced with Ms. DeGeneres on the day­time talk show and later joked about her age.

“The way I look at it is I would be the youngest woman ever elected pres­i­dent of the United States,” quipped Mrs. Clin­ton, who is 67 year old.

Most of her sup­port­ers said the email flap will blow over.

“I don’t think she has made any mis­takes on this what­so­ever,” said Rep. Alan Grayson, Florida Demo­crat. “These non­con­tro­ver­sies burn them­selves out.”

House Mi­nor­ity Leader Nancy Pelosi said that Mrs. Clin­ton’s rapid de­scent in the polls could have noth­ing to do with the emails.

“I don’t stip­u­late to the fact it’s about emails. Who knows what it could be about? It could be about another can­di­date mov­ing for­ward,” Mrs. Pelosi, a Cal­i­for­nia Demo­crat and the high­est-rank­ing woman in the coun­try, said at her weekly press con­fer­ence at the Capi­tol.

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