Hillary Clinton has attempted to cede the political spotlight to her bombastic Republican opponent, Donald J. Trump, in the hope that he will bury his own candidacy under a mountain of boorish public pronouncements. But the constant flow of new revelations about the contents of the private email server Mrs. Clinton maintained during her tenure as President Obama’s secretary of state is reinforcing voters’ doubts about her character and playing directly into Mr. Trump’s anti-establishment gospel.
This week, the U.S. State Department—under relentless legal pressure from the conservative watchdog organization Judicial Watch—released a new batch of emails from Hillary Clinton’s private email server which appear to show Mrs. Clinton and her aides allowing donors to the Clinton Foundation to influence official government business. In one exchange, a donor sought diplomatic passports from one of Mrs. Clinton’s senior aides, who replied that she would “figure it out.” Other email chains revealed that Mrs. Clinton granted high-level access to top executives at Dow Chemical, a multinational chemical company which has donated millions to the Clinton Foundation and has pledged “at least $45 million” more in recent years, according to a Wall Street Journal report.
And on Friday, the F.B.I. made public some of its files from its investigation of Mrs. Clinton. According to The New York Times, these files document “what appeared to be a frantic effort by a computer specialist to delete an archive of her emails even after a congressional committee had requested they be preserved.” And when the former secretary of state faced questions from F.B.I. investigators about her handling of classified data, she repeatedly claimed that she had left those decisions up to her senior staffers and, as Politico explained, she demonstrated “little grasp of the nuances and complexities around the nation’s classification system.”
The constant drip of news about Mrs. Clinton’s private email setup has done little to help her campaign for president, but this week’s media barrage has been especially damaging. Hoping that Donald Trump, who likely voters dislike even more than Mrs. Clinton, will sink his own campaign through a series of gaffes and missteps, the Democratic presidential nominee has withdrawn for the most part from the press. In so doing, however, she has handed her Republican opponent control of the media narrative, allowing him to hammer home sharp critiques of her character without fear of a meaningful reprisal. With every utterance of “Crooked Hillary,” Mr. Trump reinforces a negative public perception of Mrs. Clinton’s character with voters—a perception which will only intensify as she continues to obfuscate and dodge responsibility for her email mess.
Amplified by her campaign’s decision to cede the national media spotlight to Donald Trump, Mrs. Clinton’s inability to win the trust of voters has cost her dearly this week. A new national poll from ABC News and The Washington Post found that the Democratic nominee’s unfavorability rating now hovers at almost 60 percent—nearly matching Mr. Trump’s—and that support for Mrs. Clinton among women and post-graduates has softened considerably. The Trump campaign’s charm offensive of the last two weeks, featuring a trip to Mexico and surprisingly good discipline from Mr. Trump himself, might create an opportunity for the Republican to tap into some of these traditionally Democratic constituencies and pick up enough swing voters to turn the tide in the battleground states he needs to carry the White House this November.