Down the Rabbit Hole: How Pundits Spin Hillary Winning as Hillary Losing

By Peter Daou and Tom Watson

Only in the magical wonderland of American punditocracy can a candidate running ahead of a pack of 20 still be described as losing.

The frenzy to tear Hillary down is captured in this post by our friend Matt Yglesias: 

New poll showing Clinton beating everyone is reported as bad news for Hillary.

A new Quinnipiac University poll shows Hillary Clinton coasting to a crushing victory in a three-way race against Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden, winning 45 percent of the vote, compared with 22 for Sanders and 18 for Biden. And the good news for Clinton doesn't stop there. 

• The poll shows Clinton beating Jeb Bush head to head.
• The poll shows Clinton beating Marco Rubio head to head.
• The poll shows Clinton beating Donald Trump head to head.
• The poll shows Clinton winning in a landslide in scenarios where Trump runs as an independent.
• The poll did not test Clinton against Scott Walker or other possible nominees. 

So how did the media report this poll showing that if the election were held this week Hillary Clinton would win? Well, as bad news for Hillary Clinton! 

• Bloomberg: "Biden More Competitive Than Clinton Against Leading Republicans: Poll"
• Politico: "Poll: Biden outperforms Hillary in general election; Trump leads GOP field"
• Time: "Voters open to Joe Biden presidential bid in new poll"

At Daily Kos, an analysis of polls reveals what Hillary's detractors can't face:

It's been inescapable for weeks: Beltway hacks have been braying about Hillary Clinton's "falling poll numbers," eager to fan the flames of Democratic discord and generate column-inches about intra-party conflict where none exists. What's most pathetic about this latest anti-Clinton drumbeat, though, is how it's directly contradicted by, well, the polls.

She was winning half a year ago, and she's still winning now. Could that change by next year? Of course. But the point is that despite efforts to foment panic in certain quarters, nothing's changed in the last six months. If Clinton's margins were to remain the same going forward (and she were to secure the Democratic nomination), she'd win as big a victory as Barack Obama did in 2008. If anyone should be worried, it ought to be the Republicans.

If you‘re wondering how desperately some pundits and operatives want Hillary to lose, consider this exchange on Morning Joe, a shameful repository of Clinton-bashing.

“You want me to indict and damn Hillary Clinton and I’m not going to do it.” This was an exasperated NYT reporter Jeremy Peters on the set of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” Friday as Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski tried to chip away at him and push him to personally declare that Clinton did something horribly wrong. The topic was Clinton’s infamous email server, which, in recent weeks, has absolutely outraged Brzezinski.

Summer is winding down and the election is heating up. We’re reaching a point where media personalities are badgering each other to ratchet up the attacks on Hillary. If it’s humanly possible, Hillary will be subjected to even more vitriolic attacks from those whose lives are dedicated to attacking her. Another #HillaryMen friend, Heather ‘Digby’ Parton, explains how the process works, invoking what is known in progressive circles as Cokie’s Law:

Cokie’s Law is the axiom that says the press can pass judgement about anything once it’s “out there” regardless of whether or not what’s “out there” is true. This allows them to skip doing boring rebuttals of the facts at hand and instead hold forth at length about how it bears on the subject’s “judgement” and the “appearance” of wrongdoing without ever proving that what they did was wrong. 

You see, if the person being discussed were “competent,” it wouldn’t be “out there” in the first place, so even if it is based upon entirely specious speculation, it’s his or her own fault for inspiring people to speculate so speciously. It all goes back to their “character,” which nobody is more equipped to analyze and dissect than celebrity political reporters and pundits. 

And even if the charges are patently false, they are always far too complicated to rebut in detail; and, anyway, the other side says something different (aka “he said/she said), so who’s really to say what’s true and what isn’t? It’s still the responsibility of the target of those charges because he or she shouldn’t have allowed him or herself to be in a position where someone could make false charges in the first place.

We’re so far down the rabbit hole with coverage of Hillary that up is down, black is white, and winning is losing. Thank goodness for voters who see through this topsy-turvy spin and continue to stand with Hillary.

UPDATE: David Ignatius and Jamelle Bouie join Matt Yglesias with firm rebuttals of the congealing conventional wisdom that Hillary's campaign is struggling. Bouie flat out asserts, "The Hillary doubters are wrong." Ignatius refers to the "Hillary scandal that isn't." These three opinion leaders are hardly Hillary supporters, which makes their rebuttals of the naysayers even more notable.


Peter Daou and Tom Watson founded #HillaryMen to provide actionable analysis of the 2016 campaign focusing on the gender barrier in U.S. politics. Peter is a former senior digital adviser to Hillary Clinton and the Clinton Global Initiative. He is a veteran of two presidential campaigns (Kerry '04 and Clinton '08). Tom is an author and Columbia University lecturer who advises companies and non-profits on social activism.