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Why Hillary's high numbers (even among Republicans!) won't last

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May 14, 2014: This file photo shows former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton speaking in Washington. (AP/File)

Can Hillary Clinton really be that popular?

Much of the media is clearly ready for a coronation, but is that related to reality?

Her latest numbers are impressive, but there are reasons to be skeptical.

In a new Reuters/Ipsos poll, “most Americans have a favorable view of former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and think she will win the 2016 presidential election.”

Some 57 percent of Americans “who were aware of Clinton” (isn’t that everyone?) have a favorable opinion, while 43 percent see her negatively. And “nearly one-quarter of Republicans said they had a favorable view of Clinton.” That’s pretty remarkable in a polarized electorate, suggesting a certain crossover appeal.

Clinton was most frequently described as “strong,” but “‘Benghazi’ was the term that stood out most when respondents who said they had an unfavorable view of Clinton were asked to explain this perspective.”

And therein lies the rub.

Hillary is not campaigning now (though she is, sort of) and is largely out of the line of fire (speculation about her health notwithstanding). The moment she gets in the race, she faces a relentless barrage and her numbers start to drop.

Right now, she can go on “The View” and wish Barbara Walters a warm farewell. As a candidate, she’d be asked about health care and Nigeria and Iran and what she accomplished at the State Department.

The fact that people expect her to win the presidency is noteworthy, although two years from now it also casts her, in an odd way, as the incumbent.

Fox’s Charles Krauthammer told Bill O’Reilly that “the Democrats grossly overestimate how popular Hillary is. She may be popular with some of them, she may be popular with a lot of them. But they assume it’s going to apply to the country. I think not.”

Referring to her description of her time at Foggy Bottom as a relay race, Krauthammer said the strongest thing she can say is “‘that I passed the baton.’ Now, I’ve never been to the Track and Field Hall of Fame, but I can assure you that there is not a single plaque that reads, ‘He passed the baton.’”

I suspect the former secretary will have more to say than that. But she’ll also face the difficulty of separating herself from the Obama administration without turning her back on the president who hired her.

So is there any way she’s not the Democratic nominee?

“The reality is that if nothing extraordinary happens, the only person who could keep Hillary Clinton from being the party's nominee would be Clinton herself,” says The Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza. “While we -- and virtually everyone else in the political world -- have begun to take her candidacy as a foregone conclusion, no one in her real inner circle is talking -- meaning that she almost certainly hasn't made the final go/no-go decision. So, what could keep her from running?  

“For all the sturm und drang caused by the insinuations made  by Karl Rove regarding Clinton's health scare in late 2012, a blood clot on the brain is a serious thing and even Clinton allies acknowledge it was not insignificant. Bill Clinton insisted this week that his wife is in "better shape" than he is and her aides say she has an absolutely clean bill of health. But Clinton would be 69 years old on election day 2016, and couple her age with that scare in late 2012 and it's hard to imagine Clinton not taking a full accounting of her health before officially deciding to run. Possible that such an accounting leads Clinton to take a pass? Yes. Likely? No.”

Put me down in the Extremely Unlikely camp. An awful lot of Hillary’s friends have come on board in the belief that she is the candidate-in-waiting. 

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Howard Kurtz is a Fox News analyst and the host of "MediaBuzz" (Sundays 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. ET). He is the author of five books and is based in Washington. Follow him at @HowardKurtz. Click here for more information on Howard Kurtz. 

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