Hillary Clinton knew there were concerns about her "likeability" as a candidate, but as early as July 2016—just after President Donald Trump became the Republican nominee—she apparently decided she would stop caring.
In a new book on the Clinton campaign, Chasing Hillary: Ten Years, Two Presidential Campaigns, and One Intact Glass Ceiling, New York Times reporter-at-large Amy Chozick recalled the Democratic nominee brushing off her staff's reminders about her foundering favorability.
"A week earlier, she’d cut off Joel [Benenson] and the pollster John Anzalone, as they walked her through the almost daily reminder that half the country disliked her,” Chozick wrote, according to the Daily Beast, noting that the conversation had happened around the time of the Republican National Convention. "'You know, I am getting pretty tired of hearing about how nobody likes me,' she said."
According to Chozick, Clinton went on to wonder: "'Oh, what's the point? They're never going to like me.'"
Clinton had resigned herself to the idea that there was nothing she could do to win over voters who didn't already look favorably on her. Eventually, her own campaign seemed to adjust to the same idea, arguing that Clinton could sail to victory even without high likeability polling.
When donors asked Clinton's campaign headquarters how they "planned...to pull Hillary's trust numbers out of the toilet," Chozick wrote that "the answer was always the same: nothing. Podesta would explain ‘I remember no one trusted Bill Clinton and he won twice.'"
The misguided calculation, Chozick suggested, is part of what cost Clinton her chance at being the first woman president.
At the end of August 2016, a Washington Post/ABC News poll emerged showing that Clinton's favorability had just hit a record low with Americans. Just 41 percent held a positive view of her, while a historic 56 percent viewed her unfavorably—the worst ratings Clinton had ever received during her decades in the public eye.
Perhaps Clinton's campaign saw little cause for panic because polling had shown Trump doing worse, with 63 percent of Americans viewing him negatively. Still, the Post explained, when the results were narrowed to include only registered voters, Clinton and her Republican opponent both had almost equally bad images.
There was one comment in particular, though, that hadn't helped Clinton's case: her "basket of deplorables" remark.
Chozick said the blunder hadn't been purely accidental, but was rather a reflection of how Clinton already thought about Trump supporters, lumping them into three categories, or baskets. One basket held "Republicans who hated her" and would vote for whatever nominee the GOP put on the ballot. A second basket contained voters who felt disenchanted by the government and felt left behind. And the last was reserved for Trump's "deplorables," which Chozick said included those with bigoted views.
Still, Clinton knew she'd made a mistake when she referred to the latter group at a New York fundraiser, just a couple of months before the November elections. Chozick said Clinton told her aides afterward: "'I really messed up.'"
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