Denial is more than a river in Egypt: It’s Hillary Clinton’s take on why she lost the presidency. But the data are clear: She didn’t lose because of Russian interference, James Comey or misogyny. She lost because she alienated millions of people who’d voted for President Obama twice.
The Russian-interference claim is easy to dismiss. Clinton began her campaign in 2015 with a favorable rating of 50 percent. By that summer, though, her favorable rating had dropped to the mid-40s, and it plummeted further to a mere 41 percent by Labor Day. Despite a further year and a half of campaigning, she never rose above the 45 percent mark for the remainder of the race.
It’s easy to know why this happened: Her e-mail scandal surfaced. The first news broke March 2, 2015, in The New York Times. By that summer the FBI had announced an investigation into whether classified documents had been compromised.
This timeline easily disproves the claim that Russian-government interference determined the election. The initial Times story was based on leaks from the State Department. Later stories also relied on State Department or administration leaks, not e-mails or info hacked by the Russian government. By the time any now-suspected Russian efforts began to hurt Clinton, she was already mortally wounded.
Comey’s Oct. 27 letter announcing a continued investigation into her e-mails should be understood in that context. Her approval ratings had barely budged all that year, moving between 42 and 38 percent. Her unfavorable ratings also hadn’t budged, moving between 53 and 55 percent.
Comey’s letter didn’t cause any increase in her unfavorable ratings; in fact, her favorable ratings ticked up a point after its release. American voters had decided long before that her legal status was irrelevant to their opinion of her. Non-Democrats had already decided that they didn’t want her to be president.