Hillary’s Challenge: Can Clinton Stay Popular As She Reenters Politics?

Hillary Clinton’s favorability has fallen to a six-year low, according to a Gallup poll released Wednesday, effectively erasing the gains that she made while serving as Secretary of State. With 2016 preparation on both sides turning Clinton into a purely political figure again, the Gallup poll demonstrates what might be the most fundamental challenge for a Hillary presidential run: Can she stay popular as she becomes political again?

For now, Clinton still enjoys impressive popularity for a public figure: Gallup found that 54 percent of Americans have a favorable opinion of her. But that’s down from 59 percent in February and a peak of 66 percent near the end of her tenure at the State Department. It is the lowest recorded mark by Gallup since August 2008.

The poll’s authors offered the obvious explanation for the drop: As Americans begin to view Clinton as a presidential contender, instead of a non-political senior stateswoman, their opinions of her have started to polarize.

“As Democratic elected officials continue to encourage her to run for president, her name has become further politicized, thus making her less favorable to non-Democrats,” Gallup wrote.

And it makes sense: All the pieces for a presidential campaign are already in place — except for an official candidacy. A shadow infrastructure for grassroots organization, big-dollar fundraising and rapid response has already been built. A small army of GOP attack dogs is working full-time to undermine Hillary before she announces. And the political media has developed an insatiable appetite for all things Clinton.

So moving forward toward 2016, that’s the balance — becoming political while maintaining the popularity that makes many view her as inevitable — that Clinton will have to find. The Gallup poll suggests it won’t be easy. And at the start of the book tour that is widely viewed as the unofficial beginning of a campaign, Hillary herself is beginning to talk more like a candidate.

She said she doesn’t believe, as Barbara Bush does, there have been too many Bushes or Clintons in the White House. The controversy over Benghazi is more of a reason to run, she added. Even the title of her book points to that shift.

“The reason I called this book ‘Hard Choices’ is because that’s what any president faces,” Clinton said on ABC’s “Good Morning America.” “I remember very well my husband being in the White House, making some hard choices that were not popular at the time but being able to persevere, and everybody could see the results.”

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