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She’s Made History, Can Clinton Now Win US Voters’ Trust?

  • VOA Staff

Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton speaks during the final day of the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, July 28, 2016.

Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton speaks during the final day of the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, July 28, 2016.

She has made history. She has the domestic and foreign experience. And she has the endorsement of her primary opponent.

Now, can Hillary Clinton overcome her historically high negative ratings for a Democratic presidential candidate?

Just 38 percent of voters viewed Clinton favorably in a Gallup poll conducted the week before the convention, the lowest point in 24 years.

And in a recent Washington Post-ABC News poll, 54 percent of those surveyed said they had an unfavorable impression of Clinton, with only 39 percent saying she is honest and trustworthy.

Part of this impression can be attributed to the controversy surrounding her use of a private email server while secretary of state.

“The major problem for Clinton is to overcome the credibility gap,” says American University historian Allan Lichtman. “In one poll, 56 percent of Americans thought she ought to have been indicted for her problems with her personal email server. That is quite extraordinary.”

Projecting warmth

It’s not just the email controversy. Analysts say Clinton has to counter the impression she is unfeeling or unable to relate to the issues of the everyday American.

“Hillary is seen as a cold fish who is calculating and not of the highest integrity,” says political consultant Gary Nordlinger. “She has to show she is warm, compassionate and trustworthy.”

A supporter cheers as Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton speaks during the final day of the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, July 28, 2016.

A supporter cheers as Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton speaks during the final day of the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, July 28, 2016.

Speakers at this week’s Democratic Convention, including her husband former President Bill Clinton, have aimed to highlight a more personal side of Clinton, recounting her days registering Mexican-American voters, advocating for early childhood education, and being a mother to daughter Chelsea.

Democratic strategist Robert Weiner says Clinton must show more of that side to voters while on the campaign trail, between now and November.

“She has got to be personal, she has got to be real,” Weiner says. “She has got to say with emotion how these issues impact her and how she knows the families that are impacted by them.”

Weiner, a former White House spokesman for Bill Clinton, says while the former first lady, U.S. senator and secretary of state may lack the charisma of past candidates, she makes up for this shortcoming with her problem-solving ability.

“She is incredibly smart. She assesses with detail all the policy implications and gets to the root cause of a problem and the guts of the solution better than anyone I have seen, and that includes Obama and Bill Clinton,” Weiner notes.

Georgetown University professor Stephen Wayne says in the tumultuous fight against Republican nominee Donald Trump, being the even-keeled, experienced candidate may not be such a negative as the race closes in on the November 8 election.

“She has to act as the mature, experienced, knowledgeable candidate, and she is going to be very unexciting and uninspiring,” Wayne says. “You sort of can’t do both at the same time.”

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump points to the crowd as he speaks during a campaign rally, July 27, 2016, in Toledo, Ohio.

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump points to the crowd as he speaks during a campaign rally, July 27, 2016, in Toledo, Ohio.

Countering Trump with a clear message

Still, in a presidential contest that has seen businessman Donald Trump defeat 16 other fellow Republicans to win the nomination, Clinton also cannot afford to play it safe if she wants to win votes, says Nordlinger.

“In an outsider year, you have the absolute queen of the political establishment running against the absolute king of the anti-establishment, so that dynamic favors Trump,” the George Washington University professor says.

And the Republican nominee is certain to continue his sharp attacks on Clinton – whether calling her crooked or corrupt.

Clinton, too, should be sharp in her counterattacks, says The Road to the White House author Wayne.

“She has got to get under Trump’s skin, because when you get under his skin – he explodes,” he says. “And when he explodes, he shows an emotion that most people don’t associate with what we want in a president.”

Clinton must also focus her messaging, analysts say.

“She seems a bit distant, disconnected. She needs to figure out a better way to connect with voters and develop a clear message,” says American University historian Lichtman.

Michael Kazin, author of American Dreamers: How the Left Changed a Nation, says “stronger together” is not one of them.

“Who is stronger together? She has to identify two or three issues she really cares about and run on those, mention them again and again, and those issues have to have a clear contrast from Donald Trump,” he says.

Getting voters to the polls

More than anything, analysts say Clinton and her campaign must get out the vote in order to win the presidency.

“So many of the people who should be their (Democrats’) core constituencies, young people, African-Americans, Latinos don’t vote in as large number as Republicans,” Kazin notes. “So if they lose, it will be because their people did not come out and vote – not because a majority of Americans who are eligible to vote want to vote for Donald Trump.”

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