The Wheels are Falling Off Democrats’ 2016 Hopes

Over the past few election cycles Democrats have been licking their wounds, lamenting the loss of majorities in the House, Senate and state governments across the country. Just how bad were things? Colleen Nelson and Peter Nicholas survey the damage for the Wall Street Journal:

After two presidential victories, Mr. Obama presides over a Democratic Party that has lost 13 seats in the U.S. Senate and 69 in the House during his tenure, a net loss unmatched by any modern U.S. president.

Democrats have also lost 11 governorships, four state attorneys general, 910 legislative seats, as well as the majorities in 30 state legislative chambers. In 23 states, Republicans control the governor’s office and the legislature; Democrats, only seven.

Despite the tremendous losses, they took solace in thinking that 2016 would be the end of their bleeding. That would be the election when the playing field finally tilted in their favor, when they’d be playing offense, not defense, and they could ride to victory on the coattails of an extremely popular presidential candidate.

And then the wheels fell off.

The genesis of the problem is borne out of their recent struggles to win local and state races – those losses left them with a dearth of talent capable of making the jump to the big leagues. And without an inspiring candidate at the top of the ticket it becomes very difficult to build the broad network of volunteers and donors necessary to compete in marginal districts. When funds dry up, the state party suffers, which leads to an inability to effectively manage the few field representatives and volunteers they were able to cobble together. It’s a self-defeating cycle that can only be broken with strong candidates, a hump that Democrats’s current list of rookies and retreads doesn’t appear capable of getting over in 2016.

“We have a little bit of blue in the West Coast. A little bit of blue in the Northeast, and occasional blue elsewhere. But, boy, it’s bright red map in all of those big, square states,” former Senate Democratic leader Tom Daschle told the Wall Street Journal. “That’s where I do worry about recruiting and building a bench and finding ways to connect with real voters. We’re not doing a very good job of that.”

Exhibit 1A of that problem is Hillary Clinton, a candidate with a strong resume and a built-in name brand, but who has very little ability to connect with average voters. That glaring weakness became abundantly clear in new polling conducted by Quinnipiac University which shows Clinton trailing Sen. Marco Rubio, former Gov. Jeb Bush and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker  in the crucial swing states of Colorado, Iowa and Virginia.

Specifically, the poll shows Clinton trailing Rubio 38%-46%, Bush 36%-41% and Walker 38%-47%. In Iowa, she trails Rubio 36%-44%, Bush 36%-42% and Walker 37%-45%. And in Virginia, she lags behind Rubio 41%-43%, Bush 39%-42% and Walker 40%-43%.

Perhaps worse for Clinton, at least in the long-term, is that her favorability and trustworthiness ratings are in a free fall. For instance, in Colorado just 34% of voters said they see her as “honest and trustworthy,” in Iowa that figure is 33 percent, and in Virginia it’s 39 percent.

“She has lost ground in the horse race and on key questions about her honesty and leadership,” said Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Poll, in a release accompanying Wednesday morning’s results. “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% in each of the three states.”

It should come as no surprise that Democrats are beginning to question their willingness to anoint Clinton before she had faced the crucible of a primary. Niall Stanage reports for The Hill:

Hank Sheinkopf, a New York-based Democratic consultant who has worked with Clinton in the past but is not involved with her current campaign, described the findings as “absolutely dangerous” for the party. bgre

“The electorate is very volatile. They are not happy about anybody [in politics], and this is just another indication of that.” . . .

It’s not a one-off, it is something that they should be worried about,” said Sheinkopf, referring to the most recent polling results.

Skelley of UVA agrees. “There is a question here about her trustworthiness. Her numbers on that front are not good, to put it flatly,”

The trend is fairly easy to spot – the more people see her as a favorite for the White House the less they like her.

“This fits another pattern of hers,” explains NBC’s Chuck Todd. “Whenever she’s been out front as the face of the Democratic Party, her numbers have gone down. They always have, whenever she is the focal point.”

But with no other viable options in sight, Democrats are largely stuck with Clinton. And if history holds, that could mean they’re in for a long year.