According to the Washington Posts‘ Aaron Blake at The Fix, Hillary Clinton’s email server is why this race is still close:
A new CNN/ORC poll (.pdf) demonstrates it pretty clearly. While polls at the start of the 2016 race showed Americans were basically split about whether her use of a private email server gave them pause about voting for her, it’s now clear that it’s a significant hurdle for a strong majority of Americans in voting for Clinton.
The poll shows fully 62 percent of registered voters agreed with the statement that her use of the server is “an important indicator of her character and ability to serve as president.” That number has risen steadily this year, from 46 percent in March 2015, to 55 percent in October, to 58 percent in June 2016, and now to 62 percent today.
Just 36 percent say the email server is “not relevant to her character or her ability to serve as president.” That’s down from 52 percent at the start of the campaign 18 months ago.
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At this point, it’s hard to point to basically any other major explanation for Clinton’s declining poll numbers and the tightening overall race. She’s run a largely quiet campaign until this past week and has been content to let Trump make the news. The one constant story about Clinton has been new revelations about her emails and the Clinton Foundation (which the new poll, by the way, shows 60 percent say should be shut down either now or if she becomes president). And if you look closely, perceptions about her email server track closely with her overall image and her perceived honesty and trustworthiness.
Democrats believe that the email issue is overblown by the media. The Washington Post editorial board agrees in a Friday editorial titled The Hillary Clinton email story is out of control:
JUDGING BY the amount of time NBC’s Matt Lauer spent pressing Hillary Clinton on her emails during Wednesday’s national security presidential forum, one would think that her homebrew server was one of the most important issues facing the country this election. It is not.
There are a thousand other substantive issues — from China’s aggressive moves in the South China Sea to National Security Agency intelligence-gathering to military spending — that would have revealed more about what the candidates know and how they would govern. Instead, these did not even get mentioned in the first of 5½ precious prime-time hours the two candidates will share before Election Day, while emails took up a third of Ms. Clinton’s time.
Sadly, Mr. Lauer’s widely panned handling of the candidate forum was not an aberration.
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Ms. Clinton’s emails have endured much more scrutiny than an ordinary person’s would have, and the criminal case against her was so thin that charging her would have been to treat her very differently. Ironically, even as the email issue consumed so much precious airtime, several pieces of news reported Wednesday should have taken some steam out of the story.
First is a memo FBI Director James B. Comey sent to his staff explaining that the decision not to recommend charging Ms. Clinton was “not a cliff-hanger” and that people “chest-beating” and second-guessing the FBI do not know what they are talking about. Anyone who claims that Ms. Clinton should be in prison accuses, without evidence, the FBI of corruption or flagrant incompetence.
Second is the emergence of an email exchange between Ms. Clinton and former secretary of state Colin Powell in which he explained that he used a private computer and bypassed State Department servers while he ran the agency, even when communicating with foreign leaders and top officials . . .
[Powell explained that he had used a dial-up connection (a personal AOL account) to send e-mails “so I could communicate with a wide range of friends directly without it going through the State Department servers. I even used it to do business with some foreign leaders and some of the senior folks in the Department on their personal e-mail accounts. I did the same thing on the road in hotels.” Colin Powell’s e-mail tips: Use private phone line, personal AOL account… and keep mouth shut.
As for the whereabouts of Powell’s own emails from his time at the State Department, “during his tenure, Powell had sent classified emails over his private AOL account – but as of July, had still not responded to a request to contact his service provider to retrieve them,” according to USA Today. “In both 2014 and 2015, the State Department asked Powell to provide all of his records that were not in the agency’s record-keeping system.” As Powell’s email to Clinton suggested, he no longer has the emails from his personal account; the records of those communications with national and international leaders during his tenure as secretary of state are gone. The Press’ Email Narrative Now Has A Colin Powell Problem.]
. . . Mr. Powell attempted last month to distance himself from Ms. Clinton’s practices, which is one of the many factors that made the email story look worse. Now, it seems, Mr. Powell engaged in similar behavior.
Last is a finding that 30 Benghazi-related emails that were recovered during the FBI email investigation and recently attracted big headlines had nothing significant in them. Only one, in fact, was previously undisclosed, and it contained nothing but a compliment from a diplomat. But the damage of the “30 deleted Benghazi emails” story has already been done.
Ms. Clinton is hardly blameless. She treated the public’s interest in sound record-keeping cavalierly. A small amount of classified material also moved across her private server. But it was not obviously marked as such, and there is still no evidence that national security was harmed. Ms. Clinton has also admitted that using the personal server was a mistake. The story has vastly exceeded the boundaries of the facts.
Imagine how history would judge today’s Americans if, looking back at this election, the record showed that voters empowered a dangerous man because of . . . a minor email scandal. There is no equivalence between Ms. Clinton’s wrongs and Mr. Trump’s manifest unfitness for office.
The Washington Post is hardly blameless in hyperventilating scandal mongering over emails. The existential threat to democracy represented by the crypto-fascist Donald Trump is at least sobering up the editors of the Post. We’ll see if that memo goes out to its reporters.