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As Hillary’s Numbers Dip, Benghazi Rises As an Issue

Eric Pianin

There was a ton of bad news for Hillary Clinton in two new polls that put the former Secretary of State’s favorability deeper into negative territory amid harsh voter assessments of her personality – particularly her trustworthiness. When asked by CNN/ORC if Clinton was honest and trustworthy, only 42 percent of respondents said yes while 57 percent said no. That was down from 50/49 percent in March and 56/43 percent in March 2014. 

Clinton’s favorability ratings are also the lowest in a Washington Post-ABC News poll since April 2008 when she first sought the Democratic presidential nomination. Today, just 41 percent of Americans say she is honest and trustworthy, in contrast to 52 percent who said she is not. That represents a startling 22 percentage point swing in the past year, according to The Washington Post.

Related: Like Indelible Ink, Benghazi Is Not Going Away for Hillary  

There may be even worse political news for Clinton in these two national polls: The House Republicans’ persistent investigation of her role surrounding the 2012 terrorist attack against a U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, that killed four Americans including U.S. Ambassador Christopher J. Steven is gaining traction with the public. Asked whether they were satisfied or dissatisfied with the way Clinton handled the crisis, just 38 percent surveyed by CNN said they were satisfied while 58 percent   were dissatisfied. That compares with 43 percent who were satisfied and 55 percent who were dissatisfied back in May 2014. 

As for whether the Republicans have gone too far in pursuing an investigation of Clinton’s role in the tragic events, as Clinton supporters and congressional Democrats contend, 51 percent said they thought the Republicans were handling the investigation appropriately while only 41 percent thought they had gone too far. By comparison, only 48 percent of respondents said the Republicans had handled the probe appropriately and 44 percent believed they had gone too far a year ago. 

Half of the people surveyed for the Washington Post-ABC news poll said they disapprove of the way Clinton is handling questions about Benghazi and 55 percent said they consider the issue to be fair game in next year’s election.

Related: Hillary Alert: New Emails Mean Benghazi Isn’t Over 

These findings are significant because they lend credence to GOP assertions that the on-going Benghazi inquest is a legitimate probe of what happened before, during and after the terrorists’ attacks, and not some crass, partisan show trial that targets the front-running candidate for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination.

After seven previous investigations, it looked as if the Republicans were once again headed down a blind alley with their latest investigation head by Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC). But after floundering for months, the select House committee’s investigation was revived on May 29 when House Republicans announced that the State Department had handed over 4,000 pages of new documents to the panel. 

Moreover, the State Department has said that it is in the process of reviewing for subsequent release 55,000 pages of Clinton’s official email during her four years at State. U.S. District Court Judge Rudolph Contreras subsequently ordered that State disclose records batch by batch as they have been reviewed – an order that will all but assure a steady drip of documents throughout the summer and fall, as the presidential campaign heats up.

Related: How the Clinton Scandals Can Bring Down the Democrats


Even with the judge’s order, Gowdy and other Republicans are impatient to get their hands on additional materials related to Clinton and some of her former top staffers. On Tuesday, House Republicans proposed cutting the State Department’s operating budget by nearly $700 million – or 15 percent -- until requirements related to proper management of the Freedom of Information Act and electronic communications are met.

The souring of the public’s view of the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee should hardly come as a surprise after months of steady negative media coverage about the Clinton Family Foundation’s questionable fundraising practices, the tens of millions of dollars that Hillary Clinton and her husband, former President Bill Clinton, made giving speeches after they left the White House, and the controversy over her use of a personal email server while she was at the State Department.

A mere two months ago, Clinton’s favorability rating in the CNN series was 53 percent favorable to 44 percent unfavorable, a nine-point advantage. Now it is 46 percent favorable to 50 percent unfavorable – which constitutes a 13-point negative swing.

In head-to-head match-ups against top Republicans, Clinton’s margin is tighter than it has been at any point in the CNN/ORC's poll. In short, she has her work cut out for her in restoring public confidence in her integrity as drives towards her party’s nomination next year.

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