Vic­tory in sight, Clin­ton still grap­ples with neg­a­tive views

Chronicle (Zimbabwe) - - Worldwide -

WASH­ING­TON — Hil­lary Clin­ton bested Don­ald Trump in three de­bates. She leads in many pref­er­ence polls of the most com­pet­i­tive states. Bar­ring a sig­nif­i­cant shift in the next two weeks, she is in a strong po­si­tion to be­come the first woman elected US pres­i­dent.

But Clin­ton will end the cam­paign still strug­gling to change the minds of mil­lions of vot­ers who don’t think well of her, a glar­ing li­a­bil­ity should the Demo­cratic nom­i­nee move on to the White House.

While many see her as bet­ter pre­pared to be com­man­der in chief than Trump, she is con­sis­tently viewed un­favourably by more than half of the coun­try. Most vot­ers also con­sider her dis­hon­est.

Clin­ton’s ad­vis­ers have spent months try­ing to erase that per­cep­tion. They’ve set up small events where she had more in­ti­mate con­ver­sa­tions with vot­ers. They’ve tested a seem­ingly end­less stream of mes­sages aimed at as­sur­ing the pub­lic that the former sec­re­tary of state was in the race to do more than ful­fill her own po­lit­i­cal am­bi­tions.

As Clin­ton starts mak­ing her clos­ing ar­gu­ment to vot­ers, her team ap­pears to have come to terms that the mis­sion re­mains un­ful­filled.

“Hon­est and trust­wor­thy has be­come our most talked about met­ric be­cause it’s not great,” said Jen­nifer Palmieri, Clin­ton’s com­mu­ni­ca­tions direc­tor. “But we’ve never thought it’s the met­ric peo­ple make a de­ci­sion on.” If Clin­ton wins, that the­ory may be proven true. Just 36 per­cent of vot­ers be­lieve Clin­ton is hon­est and trust­wor­thy, ac­cord­ing to a re­cent Wash­ing­ton Post/ ABC News poll. That’s com­pared with about 60 per­cent who be­lieve she has the qual­i­fi­ca­tions and tem­per­a­ment to be com­man­der in chief.

The pub­lic’s per­cep­tion of Clin­ton has bounced up and down through­out her time in pub­lic life. Her favoura­bil­ity rat­ing fell be­low 50 per­cent at times dur­ing her years as first lady, but rose to its high wa­ter mark then and while she was sec­re­tary of state un­der Pres­i­dent Barack Obama.

Democrats blame some of the cur­rent neg­a­tive per­sonal per­cep­tions of Clin­ton on the hard-charg­ing tac­tics she’s used to try to dis­credit Trump, though they be­lieve her sus­tained as­sault on Trump’s char­ac­ter and tem­per­a­ment has been cru­cial.

Party op­er­a­tives also say Trump’s per­sonal at­tacks on Clin­ton have made it all but im­pos­si­ble for more pos­i­tive mes­sages to break through. He’s called her a “liar”, a “nasty woman” and pledged to put her in jail.

“When you’re un­der re­lent­less as­sault from a re­al­ity TV star, it’s hard to come out of that with any­body feel­ing good about any­one,” said Bill Bur­ton, a former Obama aide.

Still, Clin­ton’s ad­vis­ers ac­knowl­edge that some of her trou­bles have been of her own mak­ing, in­clud­ing her pen­chant for pri­vacy.

She’s spent nearly the en­tire cam­paign strug­gling to ex­plain why she used a pri­vate email server in the base­ment of her home while she led the State Depart­ment. She hid a pneu­mo­nia di­ag­no­sis this fall from nearly all of her se­nior staff, then left the pub­lic un­aware of her con­di­tion and where­abouts for 90 min­utes af­ter the ill­ness caused her to rush out of a pub­lic event in New York.

“She is a politi­cian that does not seek to be the cen­tre of at­ten­tion and is in­her­ently more pri­vate than most politi­cians, cer­tainly pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates,” Palmieri said. “That doesn’t al­ways serve you great in a cam­paign for pres­i­dent.”

Clin­ton fre­quently shoots down ques­tions about the pub­lic’s neg­a­tive per­cep­tions by say­ing she’s viewed more pos­i­tively when she’s do­ing a job rather than run­ning for one. There’s some ev­i­dence to back that up.

When she ran for re-elec­tion to the Se­nate from New York in 2006, she won with 67 per­cent of the vote, a big jump from the 55 per­cent share from her first race in 2000. Her ap­proval rat­ing when she left the State Depart­ment, where her job kept her out of day-to-day pol­i­tics, sat at an en­vi­able 65 per­cent, ac­cord­ing to the Pew Re­search Cen­tre.

But if Clin­ton is elected pres­i­dent, she won’t have the lux­ury she had as sec­re­tary of state to stay away from the po­lit­i­cal fray — with Repub­li­cans in Wash­ing­ton in the op­po­si­tion, and pos­si­bly Trump, too.

The busi­ness­man keeps flirt­ing with the idea he could con­test the elec­tion re­sults if he loses. There are also persistent ru­mours that, if he loses, he might try to har­ness the en­thu­si­asm of his mil­lions of supporters into some type of me­dia ven­ture.

“The no­tion that Trump is go­ing to go qui­etly into the night and wish her God­speed is highly un­likely,” said David Ax­el­rod, an­other former Obama ad­viser. “She’s go­ing to have to con­tend with that and what­ever it is he chooses to make his ve­hi­cle.”

Clin­ton has be­gun ac­knowl­edg­ing the chal­lenge that could await her in the White House, if she wins, cen­ter­ing her clos­ing ar­gu­ment to vot­ers on a call for unity af­ter a bit­ter cam­paign.

“My name may be on the bal­lot, but the ques­tion re­ally is who are we as a coun­try, what are our val­ues, what kind of a fu­ture do we want to cre­ate to­gether,” she said on Fri­day at a rally in Ohio.

Some Democrats see the tran­si­tion — the two mon­th­plus stretch be­tween the Novem­ber 8 elec­tion and the Jan­uary 20 in­au­gu­ra­tion — as a cru­cial op­por­tu­nity for her to sig­nal, if she wins, that a Clin­ton White House would be dif­fer­ent from a Clin­ton cam­paign.

Mean­while, steer­ing his cam­paign to­ward con­tro­versy yet again, Trump vowed on Satur­day to sue every woman who has ac­cused him of sex­ual as­sault or other in­ap­pro­pri­ate be­hav­iour. He called them “liars” whose al­le­ga­tions he blamed Democrats for or­ches­trat­ing.

Trump’s blunt threat of le­gal ac­tion eclipsed his planned fo­cus on se­ri­ous-minded pol­icy dur­ing a speech in Get­tys­burg. Though his cam­paign had billed the speech as a chance for Trump to lay out a to-do list for his first 100 days as pres­i­dent, he seemed un­able to re­strain him­self from re-lit­i­gat­ing griev­ances with Hil­lary Clin­ton, the me­dia and es­pe­cially the women who have come for­ward in re­cent days.

“All of these liars will be sued once the elec­tion is over,” Trump said. He added later: “I look so for­ward to do­ing that.”

Ten women have pub­licly ac­cused Trump of un­wanted ad­vances or sex­ual as­sault in the weeks since a 2005 record­ing emerged in which the former re­al­ity TV star boasted of kiss­ing women and grop­ing their gen­i­tals without their con­sent. Trump has de­nied all al­le­ga­tions while in­sist­ing some of the women weren’t at­trac­tive enough for him to want to pur­sue. — AFP

Hil­lary Clin­ton

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