Democrats are over the moon about the new Washington Post report that quotes CIA sources who say that Vladimir Putin and the Russian government actively attempted to aid Donald Trump in his election race against Hillary Clinton. Many Democrats have been making the claim that if not for Putin’s intervention – if not for Russian hackers accessing emails from Hillary campaign chief John Podesta and then releasing them via WikiLeaks for months – Hillary Clinton would today be the president-elect.
There’s no evidence to support that.
There is plenty of evidence to support the contrary notion, actually.
1. Hillary Tanked Because Of Comey. When FBI Director James Comey announced on October 28 that the FBI had reopened their investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails, the iceberg hit the Titanic. The gushing hole the FBI announcement represented can’t be overstated. As Nate Silver pointed out over the weekend, “Late-deciding voters broke strongly against Clinton in swing states, enough to cost her MI/WI/PA.” According to Silver, “Clinton would almost certainly be President-elect if the election had been held on Oct. 27 (day before Comey letter).” The Comey reopening happened because of discoveries made during the Anthony Weiner investigation, not because of WikiLeaks.
2. Hillary Was Wildly Unpopular The Entire Election Cycle. The notion that WikiLeaks pushed Hillary’s unpopularity is unsupported by the evidence. An Economist/YouGov poll taken January 15-January 19, 2016 showed that just 38 percent of voters saw Hillary favorably, compared with 56 percent who viewed her unfavorably; that same poll showed her at 43 percent to 56 percent on November 4 through November 7. Hillary was always an awful candidate, and most Americans knew that for the entire election cycle.
3. The Major WikiLeaks Revelations Weren’t Major Enough. The most serious WikiLeaks revelations about Clinton broke late in the campaign: Donna Brazile channeling debate questions to Hillary Clinton during her campaign with Bernie Sanders, Hillary aides attacking Catholics, Hillary working with the Clinton Foundation. But none of those had any marked impact on her poll numbers. It was the Comey revelations that damaged her severely – she seemed to be stabilizing just before the Comey news broke.
4. It Wasn’t Putin’s Fault Hillary Didn’t Visit The Swing States. Hillary’s team blew it. She didn’t show up in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Michigan. According to Huffington Post, “In Michigan alone, a senior battleground state operative told HuffPost that the state party and local officials were running at roughly one-tenth the paid canvasser capacity that Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) had when he ran for president in 2004…. A similar situation unfolded in Wisconsin. According to several operatives there, the campaign’s state office and local officials scrambled to raise nearly $1 million for efforts to get out the vote in the closing weeks.” Hillary assumed she had the campaign in the bag, and in the final weeks, she treated it that way, spending time in states that weren’t competitive rather than those that were.
Is it serious stuff that Putin attempted to influence an American election by hacking an American institution like the DNC? Of course. It was impeachable when Richard Nixon bugged Democratic headquarters in 1972 – it’s not exactly small news when the Russians effectively do the same thing to Democrats in 2016. But just as Nixon’s bugging didn’t cost McGovern the election in 1972, there’s little evidence to suggest that Putin’s interference stopped Hillary Clinton from becoming president-elect.