We now have our first national poll on Hillary Clinton’s handling of Benghazi and her emails since she faced off against House Benghazi committee Republicans for half a day on October 22nd, and the new survey suggests that Republicans are right to be certain, absolutely certain, that these storylines are certain, absolutely certain, to doom her presidential candidacy.
Oh, wait, no, that’s not what the poll finds. Actually, it finds that she may be changing minds in her favor, though in fairness, the polling is far from a slam-dunk for her.
The new NBC/Wall Street Journal poll shows a sizable swing in the direction of Americans concluding that the email story is not important to their vote for president, and a smaller swing in the direction of Americans saying the GOP Benghazi probe is unfair and partisan.
The poll — which was taken from October 25-29, entirely after her testimony — finds that 48 percent of Americans now say Clinton’s use of a private email server is not important to their presidential vote, versus 42 percent who say the opposite. That’s a net nine point swing from earlier this month, when more said it was important by 47-44.
The poll also finds that Americans say by 40-27 that the probe into the Benghazi attacks is “unfair and too partisan,” rather than “fair and impartial.” Last month the gap was smaller, at 36-29. The Wall Street Journal’s write-up of the poll concludes that Clinton’s explanations “may be winning over voters.”
Your usual caveats: This is only one poll. A small plurality still remains unsatisfied by her Benghazi explanations (though here we saw a drop, too). Large percentages remain undecided on these questions. The ongoing FBI probe could still turn up something significant. And today’s NBC/WSJ poll finds that only 45 percent of Americans give Clinton good or decent marks for being “honest and trustworthy,” perhaps a reflection of the drumbeat of negative Benghazi and email headlines. (However, 55 percent give her high marks on “being knowledgeable and experienced enough to handle the presidency,” perhaps meaning the stories are not damaging perceptions of her competence, which may be the real threat.)
Still, today’s poll, coming after public statements from Republicans themselves undermined the credibility of the ongoing probe, raises at least the possibility that Clinton may be able to neutralize these stories over time.
Of course, numbers like these may matter little to Republicans. The limited reporting we have on this suggests that many GOP strategists remain convinced that these stories will be enough to doom her candidacy. And among GOP voters, the Benghazi hearing will probably remain the moment that the truth about Clinton’s Benghazi deceptions was decisively unmasked, as Marco Rubio suggested at the recent GOP debate. As Rubio also suggested, to great roars of approval from the debate crowd, the “mainstream media” is basically covering this up by claiming it was actually a great week for her. Needless to say, any “MSM” polling like the above that challenges this narrative is just a part of this grand conspiracy.
UPDATE: The good folks at NBC send over a partisan breakdown of some of these numbers. Get this: Republicans think by 52-18 that the Benghazi probe is “fair and impartial” rather than “unfair and partisan.” Seventy five percent of Republicans say the email story is important to their presidential vote. On both of these a plurality of independents sides with the American people overall and against Republicans.
Meanwhile, only seven percent of Republicans are satisfied with Clinton’s answers on Benghazi, versus 74 percent who aren’t. (A plurality of independents are unsatisfied, but that number is still down at a low 33 percent.) All of which suggests the degree to which these stories remain preoccupations of the GOP base.
* GOP PUSH TO RESTRICT DEBATES CRUMBLES: Yesterday Republicans circulated a potential list of conditions that the candidates might insist the networks meet to ensure their participation in future debates. Now CNN reports that the campaigns of John Kasich, Chris Christie, and Carly Fiorina are declining to sign the list. And Donald Trump is negotiating separately to “establish debate criteria that will determine Mr. Trump’s participation.”
Meanwhile, Politico reports that the remaining candidates could still sign the list, and that they would still constitute a “majority.” So this may well continue anyway.
* WHAT TRUMP WANTS FROM THE DEBATES: The Post overview of the GOP debate mess notes:
By negotiating on his own, Trump will aim to mold the debates to his liking, though it is unclear exactly what terms he will demand. One likely desire will be to limit the debates to two hours….Politically, Trump’s go-it-alone approach continues his pattern of casting himself as a master negotiator and the one contender who can take charge of a party that has lost its way.
No word yet on whether Trump will insist that he be permitted to sit atop a throne at center stage.
* TRUMP KEEPS UP THE ATTACKS ON BEN CARSON: Donald Trump, on ABC News this morning:
“It’s not his thing. He doesn’t have the temperament for it. I think Ben just doesn’t have the experience.”
Trump, meanwhile, does have the requisite experience: Cracking all those heads while making yuuuuge deals shows he can bully the political system into acting through sheer force of will. (Of course, it’s worth noting that GOP primary voters may actually believe this.)
* HILLARY EXPANDS LEAD OVER SANDERS: The new NBC/WSJ poll also finds that Clinton has expanded her lead over Sanders among Democrats nationally to 62-31, up from 58-33 last month. And:
More than eight in ten Democrats also say they can see themselves supporting Clinton for the nod…An overwhelming majority of Democrats — 84 percent — believe that Clinton is the most likely to win the Democratic nomination…And a similar margin — 81 percent — believe that Clinton has the best chance of any Democratic candidate of winning the White House in 2016.
Of course, Sanders could still win Iowa and New Hampshire, which would probably shift the dynamic in a big way. Still: Clinton isn’t exactly in free fall here.
* HILLARY LEANS INTO GUN CONTROL: The Clinton campaign is going up with a new television ad in Iowa and New Hampshire that features footage of her telling a crowd that “between 88 and 92 people a day are killed by guns,” and that it’s time to “act,” by closing loopholes to create a universal background check system.
The ad seems designed to draw an implicit contrast with Sanders, who she has already faulted as insufficiently committed to solving gun violence, but it doesn’t mention him even once.
* CHAMBER OF COMMERCE TO ‘DOUBLE DOWN’ IN 2016: Carl Hulse has an interesting look at the challenges facing Speaker Paul Ryan as he seeks to navigate the divide in the GOP between the Tea Party and pragmatic business wings. Notable:
Chamber leaders say they intend to “double down” in the 2016 elections and jump in against the hard-right conservative critics when a winnable opportunity arises — exactly what the Tea Party did against Republicans it considered too cozy with the establishment.
And get this: Chamber president Thomas Donohue faults the Tea Party because it won’t “govern in a way to create economic growth and create jobs.” Doesn’t he know that government can’t create jobs?
* THE PLUM LINE IS NOW ON FACEBOOK!!! Have we mentioned that this blog now has a Facebook page? Come like us today!
* AND THE QUOTE OF THE DAY, EPIC-GOP-WHINEFEST EDITION: President Obama, at a fundraiser last night, mocked the GOP candidates for complaining about the CNBC debate:
“Every one of these candidates says, ‘Obama’s weak, Putin’s kicking sand in his face. When I talk to Putin, he’s going to straighten out.’ And then it turns out, they can’t handle a bunch of CNBC moderators. If you can’t handle those guys, I don’t think the Chinese and the Russians are going to be too worried about you.”
It is odd to see all these tough-minded, rock-ribbed, self-reliant conservatives complaining over debate moderators subjecting them to a bit of tough — okay, “insulting” and “frivolous” — questioning. It’s as if they’re auditioning for an easy job or something.