Hillary Clinton and her surrogates have spent lots of time over the past few days making the case that everything is going perfectly according to plan with her 2016 presidential campaign. They are exactly where they want to be, to hear them tell it, and nothing that has happened to date -- not the rise of Bernie Sanders, not her ongoing problems with maintaining a private e-mail server -- has surprised them. Nothing at all.
In fact, the only people talking about Clinton's problems, which don't really exist, are in the media -- who are bored (because it's August and a slow news time) and, therefore, are looking to create a narrative based on an inaccurate reading of polls.
To wit, Hillary communications director Jennifer Palmieiri said this in an interview with NBC's Luke Russert on Wednesday:
"The press coverage of her poll numbers is pretty skewed." --@jmpalmieri.
— Chris Cillizza (@TheFix) August 19, 2015
Okay. Except, not really. While Clinton's remains comfortably ahead nationally and -- as James Carville helpfully notes -- is viewed more favorably than any of her potential Republican opponents, there is significant evidence of trouble brewing for her.
Check out new polling by Quinnipiac University in Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania -- the three biggest swing(ish) states in the country. Scroll all the way down to question #46, which asks, "Would you say that Hillary Clinton is honest and trustworthy or not?"
Thirty-two percent of respondents in Florida and Pennsylvania said she was; 34 percent of Ohioans said so. Just in case that's too much math for you: Only one in three voters in the three largest swing states in the country think that the overwhelming favorite for the Democratic nomination is honest and trustworthy.
But wait, you say! Context matters. I bet those same voters trust the Republican frontrunners even less!
Except, again, no.
The only Republican candidate with honest/trustworthy numbers like Clinton is Donald Trump. And, Trump's numbers are still not as bad as Clinton's. His lowest score on the honest/trustworthy measure is in Ohio where just 37 percent of voters say those words describe him. When compared to someone like Jeb Bush on the honest/trustworthy question, Clinton's numbers are anemic. Sixty-four percent of Floridians say Bush is honest and trustworthy -- perhaps not surprising given that he was the governor of the state for eight years But 54 percent of voters in Ohio and Pennsylvania say the same.
Clinton's problems on the honest/trustworthy question go even deeper -- as this great chart from Philip Bump reveals.
What the chart suggests is that the focus on Clinton's e-mail server has made more people see her as not trustworthy. Yes, it's of course possible that Clinton's dip on the question has nothing to do with the e-mail controversy. But, the correlation between when the e-mail story broke into the national news (March) and the drop in Clinton's numbers seems relatively strong.
Might voters not care as much about electing an honest and trustworthy president as I think? Sure. The 2016 election could be solely a referendum on competence, and Clinton's resume might be enough for voters to elect her.
But I doubt it. A lot. If you don't fundamentally trust someone or believe they are, at root, honest, then how would you justify putting the controls of the country in their hands for at least four years?
Clinton's growing problems on the honest/trustworthy questions speaks to why the e-mail story is so bad for her. It affirms some of the negative stereotypes that people already had about her -- thinks the laws don't apply to her, surrounds herself with people who enable her, etc. -- and reminds potential voters of what they would be getting (on the negative side) if she is elected president.
Clinton needs to find a way to put the story behind her ASAP. Otherwise she may find herself in a place on the honest/trustworthy question from which she may not be able to recover.