A grim warning Hillary supporters can't ignore: The fundamentals of her campaign are looking weak

General election match-ups this early are irrelevant. The real worry is in her sinking favorability ratings

Published July 22, 2015 5:15PM (EDT)

  (AP/Pat Sullivan)
(AP/Pat Sullivan)

Hillary Clinton is finished! Look at her here, in these new Quinnipiac swing state polls: she is losing to Marco Rubio, Jeb Bush and Scott Walker in polls of Colorado, Iowa, and Virginia. Hillary Clinton has lost the July 22, 2015 presidential elections of Colorado, Iowa, and Virginia, and if there's even a shred of decency left in her she will call the new triumvirate administration of Rubio, Bush and Walker to concede and promptly turn herself into the authorities for indefinite imprisonment in Gitmo, for losing.

But not really. The analytical weighting that should be placed on head-to-head general election polling match-ups from July 22, 2015 isn't quite zero but it is close. Voters in Colorado, Iowa, Virginia and several other states -- really just "several," there honestly aren't that many swing states anymore -- have an entire primary season and some billions of dollars of targeted advertisements to sit through, poor souls. Pre-election year general election polls are a fun exercise but they don't determine anything beyond the winds of the moment. That's true now and it was true earlier in the year when Clinton was leading most or all of her hypothetical challengers in these early swing state polls. The sad truth of the 2016 election, as with all elections, is that we may just have to wait until Election Day to see who wins. It sucks, right? I want to know right now!

This does not mean that the entirety of Quinnipiac's results can be dismissed, though. Look down and you'll see something ugly for Clinton: her fundamentals -- favorability rating, trustworthiness, strength as a leader etc. -- are moving very much in the wrong direction.

"Hillary Clinton's numbers have dropped among voters in the key swing states of Colorado, Iowa and Virginia. She has lost ground in the horserace and on key questions about her honesty and leadership," said Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Poll. "On being a strong leader, a key metric in presidential campaigns, she has dropped four to 10 points depending on the state and she is barely above 50 percent in each of the three states."

Not many candidates' favorability ratings are all that great in this poll (did the pollsters interrupt a lot of family dinners after long days at work?) but Clinton's have fallen into some gruesome territory, at least in these three states. Hold your breath: Save for Virginia, Clinton's net favorables are scraping the infamously bleak deep-water ocean bed known as Trump's Abyss:

Clinton gets markedly negative favorability ratings in each state, 35 - 56 percent in Colorado, 33 - 56 percent in Iowa and 41 - 50 percent in Virginia.

The worst favorability ratings for any Democrat or Republican in the presidential field belong to Trump: 31 - 58 percent in Colorado, 32 - 57 percent in Iowa and 32 - 61 percent in Virginia.

These numbers seem worse than normal and we shouldn't take near 2-to-1 unfavorables as the definitive picture of the public's receptiveness to Hillary Clinton. (There are already some questions being raised about Quinnipiac's sampling.)

But they do fit within the recent trend of Clinton dropping to dangerously low levels. "Just 39 percent of Americans have a favorable view of Clinton," an AP poll last week found, "while 49 percent have an unfavorable view, according to the new survey. In an AP-GfK poll conducted at the end of April, 46 percent had a favorable opinion and just 41 percent had an unfavorable opinion of Clinton." (Her support among Democrats declined 11 percentage points, so some of this may correlate with Bernie Sanders' modest rise.) Other recent polls from YouGov and Suffolk show her treading around the 40 percent mark, while an ABC/Washington Post one shows her at 52%, so... eh?

People don't love politicians. The whole concept of the "Do you find [X politician] honest and trustworthy?" question makes me laugh, so obviously does it invite a negative, sarcastic response from the voter being polled. But for favorability ratings to sink into the thirties, especially when a candidate isn't really facing a dire primary challenge, especially especially when a candidate has been known for decades, has ~100% name identification, and essentially has been running as an incumbent for 2.5 years, is not something that's easy to arrest and shouldn't be dismissed by her supporters so readily.

By Jim Newell

Jim Newell covers politics and media for Salon.

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