By CATHERINE PALMER
News & Features Editor
Hillary Clinton is one of the most well known presidential candidates, but Hopkins political activists are unsure of how she will fare in a field of rising political stars. Clinton has fallen in recent polls due to the rise of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and negative publicity surrounding her use of a private email server when she was Secretary of State.
Junior Dana Ettinger, a member of the Hopkins chapter of the Libertarian group Young Americans for Liberty, believes Clinton is not running an effective campaign.
“In terms of politics I think she’s blowing it,” Ettinger said. “It kind of goes back to the classic Clinton arrogance in a lot of ways. It happened in 2008. She set herself up as the inevitable candidate, and [it] blew up, and it’s happening again.”
College Republicans President Nitin Nainani agreed.
“Her campaign has seemed to be a virtual repeat thus far of the 2008 playbook. It seems like they haven’t necessarily learned from their mistakes,” Nainani said. “She doesn’t seem to have a set narrative that she’s pushing. There’s just a lot of different messages. It seems like a strategy where you throw something at the wall and hope something sticks. I think she’s been very underwhelming so far.”
Ettinger does not view Clinton as the clear frontrunner in the Democratic primary and thinks she is not taking Bernie Sanders’s candidacy seriously enough.
“She isn’t being aggressive enough. She’s still treating it like she’s got this thing locked up… and it seems lazy and apathetic,” Ettinger said. “She does not seem like she wants it. She seems like she assumes that she just deserves it, and that is a problem with voters, and it’s a problem with her message.”
Sophomore Meena Chatrathi, College Democrats secretary, agreed that Clinton is not showing enough enthusiasm.
“During some of her rallies she didn’t seem so passionate about women’s rights, which is shocking because she is a woman,” Chatrathi said. “Hopefully if she gets nominated, she’ll be more passionate because if you look at some of her speeches, she’s looking at her paper when talking about women’s rights.”
Ettinger thinks Clinton is also being bogged down by scandals, notably her handling of the 2012 attack on the American embassy in Benghazi and her alleged misuse of a private server while Secretary of State. Ettinger thinks Clinton may actually be unintentionally helping Sanders’s campaign.
“On his own he would probably have had a surge and then sort of quieted down,” Ettinger said. “Because she keeps screwing up, more and more people are defecting from the Clinton campaign to the Sanders campaign because they think she won’t win and they want someone who could actually go up against someone in the general election.”
Chatrathi, though a Sanders supporter, thinks Clinton is a more viable democratic candidate for the general election.
“She’s liberal enough to be a democrat but she has some conservative views that’ll keep her kind of centered,” Chatrathi said.
Nainani thinks Clinton’s flip-flopping on issues may hurt her.
“You don’t really know what you’re getting with Hillary Clinton,” Nainani said. “She’s made a lot of this campaign essentially running against what she once supported in the past, which all the Sanders supporters have used as fodder for saying that she’s not authentic.”
Nainani thinks Joe Biden, if he chooses to enter the race, could be a more serious threat to the Clinton campaign than Sanders.
“I think there are plenty of voters in the democratic party who would jump to another option if provided, which is why I think a lot of people [are] waiting to see if Biden gets in or not,” Nainani said. “I think right now there are plenty of people with her just because they don’t think Bernie Sanders is a credible candidate for the general election. They think he might be too far left.”
October is a “critical” month for Clinton, according to Nainani, with the first democratic debate on Tuesday as well as her upcoming hearing before the congressional Benghazi committee.
Ettinger believes Clinton’s political experience could help her in the upcoming democratic debate but will not be enough to guarantee a good performance.
“Based on the way she’s been handling this campaign, she’s probably not going to be as aggressive in preparing for the debate as she should be because [Sanders] will absolutely be preparing as aggressively as he can,” Ettinger said. “He [has] so far been fairly issues-based… and I think he’s going to be focusing on that. And I think she’s probably going to be trying to do more politics as usual, and I don’t know that it’s going to help her.”
Ettinger and Nainani agree that Clinton’s gender will help her gain supporters.
“It pains me to say that there are people who will vote for her just because she’d be the first female president,” Ettinger said. “I hate when people vote because of that. It should [matter] who’s the best candidate, not who’s going to break the glass ceiling first.”
However Ettinger believes Clinton would be a capable leader if elected president.
“You would have someone competent in the White House — maybe not someone as enthusiastic, maybe not someone as exciting — but the country wouldn’t go down in flames, which is generally the goal,” Ettinger said.
Nainani thinks Clinton’s status as a female candidate will not be enough to send her to the White House.
“I definitely think people want to see a female president,” Nainani said. “We all want to definitely see America’s leaders reflect the electorate. But I do think that’s one of the last appeals of her candidacy.”
Chatrathi also believes Clinton’s gender is an asset to her campaign.
“She’s obviously the face of women’s rights in the new feminist movement, and I think she’ll get a lot of support for that,” Chatrathi said.
However she noted that Clinton’s gender could also be a hindrance because of sexist voters.
Nainani and Ettinger think Clinton’s name recognition is a factor in her high poll numbers.
“Everybody in the country knows who Clinton is… That is the kind of name recognition you only get on the other side with Donald Trump and Jeb Bush, and that is a huge advantage,” Ettinger said.
However Clinton’s name could also hurt her, according to Ettinger.
“People just don’t trust the Clintons,” Ettinger said. “They’re always in damage control mode.”
Ettinger thinks voters’ tendency to associate Clinton with her husband, former President Bill Clinton, is particularly problematic.
“The right-of-center people will be like ‘We don’t want another Clinton. We don’t want more of the secrecy and the lies and the cover-ups,’” Ettinger said.
Chatrathi also finds the association concerning.
“Another impediment to her whole women’s rights thing for me personally is the fact that she stayed with Bill Clinton even after him being unfaithful to her. It gives off the vibe that she’s dependent on him,” Chatrathi said.
However Chatrathi believes Clinton has made sure to not let that decision define her.
“I think she’s moved past her past,” Chatrathi said.
Ettinger also believes Clinton is not accessible or relatable to the American people.
“She tries to be personable and likable. And likability is a big deal in this country, and she just doesn’t have it,” Ettinger said.
However Ettinger believes Clinton’s guest appearance on the influential TV show Saturday Night Live this past week could help her campaign. Clinton played a bartender in a sketch opposite Kate McKinnon, who impersonated Clinton. The sketch has more than one million views on YouTube.
“I heard that it was a funny sketch and that it was pointed, and it was well done. So that could help her a lot. That’s going to give her a big boost,” Ettinger said. “Tina Fey doing Sarah Palin was straight up how I got into politics in eighth grade so [the media] can have an impact when it’s done right.”
Nainani believes Clinton’s attempts to be relatable could backfire.
“I don’t necessarily think that’s who she is. I don’t think she should necessarily try that if that’s not something that she’s a hundred percent comfortable with,” Nainani said.
He is unsure how much of a threat Clinton would be to the Republican nominee if she becomes the Democratic nominee.
“By all accounts, this looks like it’ll be a fairly even election,” Nainani said.
Nainani believes Biden would pose a more serious threat to the Republican Party if he were to be the democratic nominee.
“He’s essentially the opposite [of] Hillary in that he’s very likable, very down-to-earth honest person,” Nainani said. “I don’t think people get that impression with Hillary at all. I think she has a tendency to come off as tone-deaf.”