Funt: Clinton stirring the wrong passions (column) |

Funt: Clinton stirring the wrong passions (column)

The troubling thing about Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign is that she is arousing passion among the wrong groups for the wrong reasons.

To hear her Republican opponents you’d think the election was a few days off, not a year-and-a-half away. In a series of frantic emails, GOP leaders have set April 30 as the deadline for “stopping” Clinton. This is the cutoff, they insist, for matching donations from unnamed sources in the anti-Hillary movement.

“Friends,” writes GOP chairman Reince Priebus, “I can’t stress enough how urgent (underlined) it is that we are prepared right now (italicized) to stop Hillary.” The “Clinton Machine” (cap C, cap M), he adds, “has already unleashed millions (sic) of liberal activists.”

I’m sure this comes as news to liberal activists, many of whom thought Clinton’s sappy YouTube campaign announcement and media-centric van ride to Iowa managed only to unleash paparazzi. True activists are still fussing over Liz Warren’s refusal to run and wondering who, if not the Massachusetts senator, will champion progressive positions in the debates.

Following Priebus’s plea to GOP faithful, former Bush spokesman Ari Fleischer intoned, “For weeks, months and years, Hillary Clinton has circumvented the rules and the law.” Now, he says, “there is only one week left (bold and underlined) for this exciting opportunity” to stop Hillary.

My, my. I’ll bet you could really feel the excitement building — if only there was some.

In fact, the American people face 18 months of tedium. And it remains to be seen which of three camps will bore us most: Republicans, with breathless messages about phony deadlines to stop Hillary; Democrats, with no one to debate and a campaign with all the urgency of a photo-op at Chipotle; or media, with fears that by this time next year ratings for campaign coverage on cable news will be harder to measure than Wolf Blitzer’s pulse.

At times it seems Hillary Clinton is her own worst enemy. A new Quinnipiac poll shows that her “unfavorable” ratings have increased in each of six consecutive surveys over the last two years. It’s gone from 34 percent to the current 47 percent. Among the critically important independent voters, Clinton’s unfavorable tally has crossed the tipping point at 51 percent.

While early poll numbers are of little use in evaluating the crowded Republican field — with new announcements giving each candidate short-term bumps — there are elements in the Quinnipiac data that should concern Clinton supporters.

First, among seven leading Republican contenders, none has as high an unfavorable rating as Clinton. Second, no candidate is viewed as being more “untrustworthy” than Clinton. Voters viewing her that way now total 54 percent (61 percent among independents).

Much of this is bound to change many times during the slog to Election Day, 2016. Clinton the candidate will eventually supplant images of Clinton the Cabinet official and Clinton the senator and Clinton the First Lady. Face-to-face debate with a single GOP nominee will draw differences between the parties — and they are profound — into appropriately sharp focus.

Yet, anyone on Madison Avenue will tell you that as challenging as it is to introduce the public to a new brand, nothing is more difficult than changing consumers’ opinions about something or someone, once they have made up their minds.

Peter Funt is a writer and speaker. His book, “Cautiously Optimistic,” is available at and Columns distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons, Inc., newspaper syndicate.

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