When Hillary Clinton commenced her book tour, many of us surmised that it would be all downhill from there. The idea of Clinton as a candidate has always been better than the reality of a Clinton candidacy. She lacks her husband’s charm. She is forever claiming that her experience entitles her to the next rung on the ladder. And she doesn’t have original ideas or political creativity. Moreover, the Obama-Clinton-Kerry foreign policy is imploding before our eyes. Little did we expect, however, how badly and how quickly she would suffer this time around.

NEW YORK, NY - JULY 25: Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaks on stage at the campus of Lehman College for the Dream Big Day at the Bronx Children's Museum on July 25, 2014 in the Bronx borough of New York City. Children with the museum program, which is located on the Lehman campus, put on a performance for Clinton, Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor and some members of the City Council. The Dream Big program is a six-week summer arts enrichment program which was first created in 2010. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
Former secretary of state Hillary Clinton speaks at Lehman College in New York last month. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Marist polling is beginning to reflect that the best of her pre-2016 presidential campaign may be behind her:

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is still favored against several of her potential Republican opponents among registered voters nationally, but she no longer is backed by the majority of the electorate. In fact, Clinton’s once double-digital lead against GOP hopefuls former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, and Kentucky Senator Rand Paul has eroded. Clinton’s change of fortune is largely due to a shift among independent voters among whom she still leads but not by the margins she did before.

This is all the more stunning since she has no announced opponents, and not a single ad has been run against her. This is simply Hillary doing Hillary in, as she did in 2008. And — here’s the kicker — the polling period ended Aug. 7, before her disastrous attack and retreat on the White House on Syria. It’s brutal when a liberal middle-aged woman (that is, someone in her best and most loyal base) such as New York Times columnist (and member of yet another key Clinton demographic group) Gail Collins says that “Democrats have gotten so used to thinking of her as the next president that they’ve stopped seriously evaluating her as a candidate for their nomination.” Interestingly, the candidate who has had nearly as bad a pre-2016 campaign season as Clinton, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), has moved only minimally within the margin of error (from 40 to 42 percent). His standing against the rest of the GOP field has also plummeted. “Jeb Bush and Chris Christie each receives 13% while 10% support Texas Senator Ted Cruz. Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan and Florida Senator Marco Rubio are close behind with 9%. Texas Governor Rick Perry and Senator Rand Paul are backed by 7%. Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum, and Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal trail.” The MSM, which never carefully analyzed Paul’s foreign policy extremism and the backlash on the right against isolationism, may have vastly overestimated his staying power. He seems to be losing the one block essential to his campaign. (“15% of [tea party] voters now back Cruz, up from 6% in April. In contrast, Rand Paul’s support among the Tea Party has fallen from 20% in the previous poll to 7% currently.”) Disgust with Obama’s foreign policy and enthusiasm for strikes in Iraq may hurt both Clinton and Paul. As the Fox News poll reports:

A 74-percent majority thinks Obama hasn’t been tough enough on Russia, up from 66 percent in March. Six percent say Obama has been too tough, 10 percent volunteer “about right” and 11 percent have no opinion. Sizable majorities of Democrats (65 percent), independents (69 percent) and Republicans (88 percent) agree Obama should be tougher on Russia. Just 16 percent of voters think Putin takes Obama seriously, while 77 percent think he doesn’t. That jumps to 87 percent among those who think Obama hasn’t been tough enough on Russia. Some 64 percent of Democrats say the Russian president doesn’t take Obama seriously. Overall, 64 percent think it is likely there will be a new cold war with Russia. That’s up from 54 percent who felt that way in August 2008, during the conflict between Russia and the Republic of Georgia. Democrats (+6 points), independents (+12) and Republicans (+15) are all more inclined to expect another cold war now than they were six years ago. Thirty-one percent of voters approve of how Obama is handling the situation in Ukraine, while 50 percent disapprove. Approval among Democrats (52 percent) is far outweighed by disapproval among Republicans (70 percent). The president’s ratings are similar on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict: 30 percent approve, while 54 percent disapprove. More voters say the administration has “not been supportive enough” of Israel (38 percent) than think it has been “too supportive” (18 percent) or “about right” in its support (33 percent). Republicans (62 percent) are more than four times as likely as Democrats (15 percent) to think the White House should do more for Israel. A majority disapproves of the job Obama is doing on Iraq overall (37 percent approve vs. 52 percent disapprove), yet most voters — 65 percent — approve of recent airstrikes he authorized against insurgents. Majorities of Democrats (59 percent), independents (68 percent) and Republicans (73 percent) approve of the action.

Campaigns and candidates matter, we see once again. Simply because a candidate generates early buzz doesn’t mean he or she has much to say or will survive contact with voters. There are a few takeaways. First, foreign policy matters a great deal and may be the undoing of candidates who have been on the wrong side of issues and/or too closely associated with Obama’s foreign policy paralysis. Second, there is no GOP front-runner. Third, if this downward trajectory continues for Clinton, she will have challengers. And finally, all of this can change long before the first official presidential announcement comes around.

Jennifer Rubin writes the Right Turn blog for The Post, offering reported opinion from a conservative perspective.