Commentary: What Could Go Wrong For Clinton? Plenty

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton pauses while speaking at a rally in St. Petersburg, Florida, on Monday. (Andrew Harnik/AP)
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton pauses while speaking at a rally in St. Petersburg, Florida, on Monday. (Andrew Harnik/AP)
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Thanks to a week of implosions by Donald Trump -- who refused to endorse House Speaker Paul Ryan, Arizona Sen. John McCain and New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte, then took it all back as fast as he might change a shirt -- Hillary Clinton took commanding leads in national and key state polls.

Combined with Democrats’ traditional advantages in many states, she now enjoys a whopping and inflated advantage in the Electoral College. One estimate projects her electoral vote tally at a 347-191 thrashing, (270 is needed to win). Don’t bet on it.

Republican leaders, appalled by Trump, are publicly shifting to Clinton. Mike Morrell, a 30-year veteran of the CIA, wrote in The New York Times that he would support Clinton. The former head of The Company said Trump is “not only unqualified for the job, but he may well post a threat to our national security.”


Joining last week’s GOP Trump Trashing were Hewlett Packard CEO Meg Whitman and former George W. Bush Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson, who announced separately that they will be voting for Clinton.

So what could go wrong before the Nov. 8 election? Plenty.

Just ask Michael Dukakis, who left his July convention in 1988 with a 17-point lead over George H.W. Bush, only to get crushed in the general election, losing 48 states. Dukakis did something Clinton would never do: He didn’t fight back. Bush’s people, including outgoing President Reagan, questioned Dukakis’ sanity and patriotism. Dukakis’ record as governor was distorted in TV spots that showed a filthy Boston Harbor and created the infamous commercial about Willie Horton, an ex-con who beat and raped a woman while on weekend furlough. Dukakis refused to respond, believing people wouldn’t believe the ads and, besides, he was opposed to running a negative campaign.

Clinton faces treacherous shoals this year in the third and fourth party candidates, Libertarian Gary Johnson, former governor of New Mexico, and Jill Stein, perennial Green Party cult leader who must have graduated from the Donald Trump School of Scoring Weird Political Points. A medical doctor, Stein now opposes child vaccines and questions computers in early grades of school.

Some voters who figure Clinton’s going to win anyway might decide to express a desire to legalize marijuana and throw a vote to Johnson, a smoke ‘em if you got ‘em leader. Even worse, a Washington Post poll showed roughly 1 in 5 die-hard Sanders Democrats (21 percent) plan to support either Johnson or Stein, not Clinton.

Clinton desperately needs, but seems to be taking for granted, a large and motivated Hispanic vote. She had a chance to seal the deal with Hispanics by naming as her vice presidential running mate Secretary of Labor Tom Perez or Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julian Castro. Instead, she chose Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia, who speaks Spanish fluently. If you had a chance to use Sox slugger David Ortiz as your clutch hitter, would you pinch-hit for him with a guy who speaks excellent Spanish?

She insists on using legalese to deflect -- but not answer -- charges about her emails. She did that in an interview with Chris Wallace, possibly the only sane host on Fox News. Forgetting she was in with foxes not chickens, she asserted that FBI Director James Comey “said my answers were truthful.” Well, not really. Comey had told Congress that her public statement about classified material was “not true.” Trump and Fox got days of publicity at Clinton’s expense for her deception, including making fun of her euphemistically claiming she “may have short circuited” (screwed up) in saying Comey found her version “truthful.”

Having not learned her lesson, last week speaking at a conference of black and Latino journalists, she repeated her electronically induced nonsense. It’s as if she thinks Comey’s failure to recommend her indictment was an exoneration of her improper use of a personal email.

Finally, Clinton should fear Julian Assange, whose animus began when as secretary of state she argued for indicting him for publicizing 250,000 diplomatic cables on his Wikileaks website. Assange admitted to trying to hurt Clinton by timing the release of damaging emails on the first day of the Democratic National Convention. The documents angered Sen. Bernie Sanders supporters and led to the ouster of party Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz.

Assange isn’t done. Wikileaks last week reported on Clinton’s dealings with French industrial giant Lafarge, a company accused of secretly funding ISIS. Clinton was on the board of Lafarge and did legal work for the firm in the 1990s; Lafarge contributed $100,000 to the Clinton Foundation. In line with the widespread belief that Assange’s source of documents is Russian or President Putin, Assange defended Trump, saying he has never had success in Russia.

Political satirist Bill Maher, a onetime Sanders supporter, interviewed Assange and demanded to know why he was working with Russia against Clinton, “the one person who stands in the way of us being ruled by Donald Trump.” Then he insisted, “Why don't you hack into Donald Trump's tax returns?”  Assange said they’re working on it.

Don’t bet on it.


Dan Payne Twitter Democratic Political Analyst
Dan Payne is a Democratic political analyst for WBUR.