What a difference a month of email makes. Ever since the New York Times revealed on March 2 that Hillary Clinton used a personal email account to conduct official State Department business, and it was subsequently discovered she kept a private email server at home and deleted emails from that server, her swing state approval ratings have wobbled decidedly.
A Quinnipiac poll released yesterday shows just how much. If you hold a balloon on one end and squeeze it, you’ll get a picture of what Hillary’s email controversy has done to her anticipated candidacy. It’s flattening her against most Republicans in Colorado and Iowa—Rand Paul being the greatest beneficiary—while in Virginia, which is now blushing blue, it’s widening her margin against them all, though Paul is holding his own and has replaced Jeb Bush as her chief opponent there. The survey was taken the week before Rand Paul made his candidacy for president official, so the head-to-head match-up with Clinton is no mere announcement bump.
The upshot for Democrats is this. Clinton was already hard to like, even for them. But her actions on email—and then reactions to the controversy itself—have begun to cure the quicksand that surrounds her campaign. The Quinnipiac results clearly reveal that in all three states voters believe she is not honest and trustworthy. And half the voters in each state say the email controversy is important in their vote. I wonder: do they sense the air leaving the room?
For Republicans, the tale is a cautionary one. First, don’t be a Hillary. Instead, be honest and open. Second, Clinton’s de facto new brand image of mendacity is likely to help Republicans where they can do the greatest damage to her campaign—with swing voters, blue dog Democrats, and undecided voters.
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For Rand Paul’s nascent campaign, it’s too early to make hay of Hillary’s problems. He still has Primary mountains to climb before he can address Clinton.
But if the email controversy burns in the easily believable impression of her as dishonest, like a piece of junk mail she can’t delete, it will be around for discussion in the general election no matter who the Republican nominee turns out to be.
Clint Cline is the president of Design4, a messaging and media firm with offices in Florida and Washington, D.C.