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Eye On Candidates
June 4, 2015

Clinton Challengers See An Opening

While former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton continues to hold a commanding poll lead over her rivals for the Democratic nomination, recent controversies have taken their toll and her challengers are likely to benefit. From today's Washington Post:

Clinton rivals pounce as her ratings fall

A once-sleepy Democratic presidential primary contest is fast coming alive as Hillary Rodham Clinton’s poll numbers fall and a diverse array of long-shot opponents step forward to challenge her.

The recent developments mark a dramatic evolution in the 2016 sweepstakes, which until now has been shaped by the large assortment of hopefuls on the Republican side, where there is no front-runner.

The latest Democrat to enter the race is Lincoln Chafee, a onetime Republican and former Rhode Island governor and senator, who launched his campaign Wednesday in Northern Virginia. Though his candidacy is quixotic, Chafee’s sharp attacks on Clinton’s hawkish foreign policy record — and in particular her 2002 vote to authorize the war in Iraq — could nonetheless complicate her march to the nomination.

Chafee joins an underfunded and jumbled field of Clinton rivals who see the favorite’s coziness with Wall Street and political longevity as weaknesses and who think she is vulnerable to a grass-roots contender who better captures the party’s liberal soul...

Her slide in the polls has been serious, but she is hardly in free-fall:

Polls show that Clinton’s popularity is foundering with her reemergence as a political candidate, effectively erasing the bipartisan approval she enjoyed as secretary of state.

More Americans said they held an unfavorable opinion of Clinton than a favorable one, 49 percent to 45 percent, according to a Washington Post-ABC News poll this week. Among independent voters, the figure is worse: 55 percent unfavorable to 39 percent favorable...

Clinton is showing political fragility in some areas, including on character attributes. Fifty-two percent of those polled said she was not honest and trustworthy...

Clinton continues to be in good shape for the Democratic nomination, and the current slate of rivals (Senator Bernie Sanders, former Governor Martin O'Malley, and former Governor Lincoln Chafee have all announced, and Jim Webb is likely to) has yet to gain much traction against her (although Sanders appears to getting momentum). But if her polls continue to slide, not just in the matchup against her current rivals (which is almost certain to happen) but in terms of how the overall public perceives her, it could draw additional candidates into the race who might be able to mount a more formidable challenge such as Vice President Joe Biden, Senator Elizabeth Warren, or Governor Andrew Cuomo.