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May 31, 2013 10:51 AM One Benghazi! Mission Accomplished

By Ed Kilgore

Some Republicans are probably privately discouraged that despite Scandalmania ‘13, and an atmosphere in Washington encouraging mobs to move through the already-sultry spring night with torches, Benghazi! still hasn’t caught on as a popular preoccupation outside the ranks of the “base,” where all these “scandals” just confirm what Glenn Beck was telling us about Obama way back in the day.

But as I hope we all understood, one newly important target of the latest outburst of Benghazi! investigations the lofty approval ratings of one Hillary Rodham Clinton. And per this week’s new survey from Quinnipiac, that mission was largely accomplished, though mostly because the kind of people whose positive feelings about HRC were not going to survive another presidential campaign are turning negative early. (Before going further, it’s worth noting this survey may have been based on a slightly atypical sample, since it also showed a significant erosion of Obama’s job approval ratings, in contrast to other recent polls, including those from CNN/ORC and Gallup).

Q-Pac found HRC’s favorable/unfavorable ratio declining from an all-time-high of 61/34 in February to 52/40 in May. Her standing among self-identified Democrats was unchanged, but deteriorated from 27/68 to 18/77 among Republicans, and from 59/35 to 46/42 among indies. It’s a shame Q-Pac didn’t also break out the trend lines for former Romney voters, or for voters by ideology, since we might be able to deduce that her drop in indie support was heavily concentrated among functional Republicans (e.g., those Tea Folk who self-identify as indie because Republicans aren’t conservative enough, but almost never vote Democratic). Still, it’s likely the 40% of respondents who now disapprove of her heavily overlaps with the 32% in the same survey who think the Benghazi! investigations are fundamentally legitimate rather than political.

To be sure, the Q-Pac poll showed HRC still enjoying robust if diminished margins over two potential 2016 Republican rivals (Jeb Bush and Rand Paul—it’s unclear why these worthies were chosen for the trial heat). Again, the narrowing gap was inevitable; as TNR’s Nate Cohn points out, the days of HRC beating a variety of Republican wanna-bes in their own states simply weren’t going to last. But unless something really new happens, the damage to her support levels, and quite possibly the political utility of the Benghazi! furor itself, have probably reached the point of diminishing returns.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.

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