Trump Earned His Stratospheric Negatives -- But What About Hillary?

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks to supporters during a rally at La Escuelita School in Oakland, Cali
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks to supporters during a rally at La Escuelita School in Oakland, California, on May 6, 2016. / AFP / GABRIELLE LURIE (Photo credit should read GABRIELLE LURIE/AFP/Getty Images)

A recent Reuters poll found that nearly half of voters will vote for Trump or Clinton not because they like either one of them, or because of anything that they have to say about the issues that have moved them. They'll simply back one or the other out of naked fear and loathing of Clinton or Trump in the White House. The distaste is no surprise in Trump's case. His negatives have flat lined at monumental highs almost from the moment that he declared his presidential candidacy last June. But how to explain the huge dislike of Clinton?

The obvious start is the very open, well honed and relentless GOP attack plan to nail her. It was scripted by the Republican National Committee long before she announced her 2016 presidential run. The plan was to put teams on the ground in Arkansas and anywhere else Hillary and Bill had put their political and personal footprints, then dig up every scintilla of old and new dirt it could dredge up to try and render her candidacy -- stillborn before it even became an official candidacy. The RNC planned to churn out inflammatory and defamatory videos reminding voters of the old scandals the GOP worked over endlessly to hammer Hillary on -- from Whitewater to the Lewinsky scandal, and her tout of health care reform, which was the prelude to the much harangued Affordable Care Act.

That is the past. The GOP now with the leadership of numerous House Committees could reel off and spend millions of dollars and hours on trumped up investigation after trumped up investigation to hit Clinton on her alleged coverup in the Benghazi debacle and her alleged misuse of emails as Secretary of State. The aim is to embarrass and discredit her not because of her alleged missteps as Secretary of State, but as a 2016 presidential candidate.

At the very least, with much of the press obsessively sniffing around and then headlining every spiff of rumor, including gossip and dirt about the emails and Benghazi, helped to paint the picture in the minds of many of Clinton as a liar, cheat and generally untrustworthy candidate. It was a short step from that to Trump to pouncing and minting Clinton as "Crooked Hillary" on the campaign stump. This took a toll. Clinton started out with relatively high favorability ratings in the months just before she announced that she was a 2016 candidate. However, the steady drumbeat of attacks has driven her unpopularity numbers steadily on an upward trajectory. When the GOP and Trump turn the smear guns on her in the run-up to November, the negatives could continue to march higher. It will take every ounce of Democratic Party unity, money, time, and energy, and a massive turnout from core Democrats and centrist independents, to offset the gutter attacks that will be tossed at Clinton.

The image assault on Clinton won't end with the hit on her as a presidential candidate. Trump and the GOP will eternally remind voters that her past, her views and her political style, will supposedly tag her as a hopelessly tainted and compromised president and this will hamstring her effectiveness in getting things done. The GOP-controlled House and maybe even the Senate would wage brutal war against every piece of legislation, initiative she'd propose and every key administration appointment and judicial appointment, especially to the Supreme Court that she'd make. The message being that "untrustworthy" Clinton in the Oval Office will not be able to get much done no matter her agenda with Congress, and the big loser will be the country.

A big trap for Clinton would be to get into a name calling match with Trump. A dirty, negative campaign by her would play into Trump and the GOP's hands since he's already been mocked, ridiculed, impugned and laughed at with any and every imaginable personal and political insult. More name calling wouldn't do anything to further damage his unshakeable stratospheric negatives in many circles. But that's not the case with Clinton, it would reinforce the image of Clinton doubters that she is the terrible Clinton that the GOP has been working overtime for years to sell the public on. This is not conjecture. A 2014 Pew Research Center study confirmed what many Americans have long said and long hated and that's that politics has gotten dirtier, more personal, and more embarrassing, and the candidates that engage in that are a plain turn off. A big swatch of both Democrats and Republicans flatly said that they see the other side "as threat to the nation's well-being."

The political and image assault on Clinton has been so relentless and brutal that sadly many now see her as part of that threat. Enough anyway to say they'll vote for Trump to keep her out of the White House.

Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. His latest book is From Sanders to Trump: A Guide to the 2016 Presidential Primary Battles (Amazon Kindle) He is an associate editor of New America Media. He is a weekly co-host of the Al Sharpton Show on Radio One. He is the host of the weekly Hutchinson Report Saturdays 9:00 AM on KPFK 90.7 FM Los Angeles and the Pacifica Network