A leftover from yesterday. She’s milking this Hillary feud for all it’s worth, for perfectly sound reasons: Hillary’s unpopular, she’s the face of Democratic electoral failure, and she’s the embodiment of the hawkish Wall-Street-friendly neoliberalism that Gabbard’s cohort on the party’s left wing detests. The obvious thing to do for a candidate who’s struggled to get traction in the primary is to accept the gift Clinton gave her when she called her a “Russian asset” in an interview recently by training her fire on Hillary going forward. Who knows? Maybe anti-Clinton sentiment among progressives will earn Tulsi a second look.
Doesn’t seem to be happening yet, though, if you believe the latest polling.
In fact, given how impressive Gabbard is on paper and onstage, it’s sort of shocking how badly she’s doing in the primary this year.
Mediaite dings Gabbard for claiming in that clip that overthrowing Qaddafi made the problem of global nuclear proliferation worse. Didn’t Qaddafi gives up his nuclear program years *before* we backed the uprising against him? Yes, but Gabbard’s point, I think, is that other rogue regimes — North Korea, foremost — have learned a perverse lesson from Qaddafi’s downfall. Namely, he gained nothing from the United States by cooperating with us on nukes, not even a firm promise that we wouldn’t turn on him later. On the contrary, if Qaddafi had kept his nuclear program and eventually developed weapons we wouldn’t have dared to intervene in Libya on the rebels’ side for fear of how the madman might have reacted. Fast forward almost a decade and Kim Jong Un has successfully leveraged his own nuclear arsenal for fawning diplomatic treatment from the president of the United States. That’s what Gabbard is pointing to here. The Obama/Hillary decision to reward Qaddafi’s denuclearization with death convinced other strongmen not to denuclearize.
But I digress. Is this new strategy of slamming Hillary paying off for her? Well, in the three polls taken since October 18, when Clinton’s “Russian asset” comments emerged, Gabbard’s polled at three, zero, and two points, good for an average of 1.6. That’s … right around where she’s been polling all along, possibly a tiny bit of improvement but clearly nothing to signify real legs for her from this incident. Maybe if Clinton had attacked her earlier in the race, before Democratic voters had settled on a top three or four among the field, it might have mattered.
Or maybe not. As I say, a candidate with as much going for her as Gabbard should already have been pulling better than one or two points in most polls before this Hillary incident. She has congressional experience, military experience, converses fluently in policy issues, especially foreign policy, she’s preternaturally poised and self-assured onstage, she’s telegenic, and she’s younger than anyone else in the field except Buttigieg. She seems plenty left-ish enough for most progressives too. You would think she’d at least be keeping pace with Mayor Pete, but she’s gone nowhere. Why? We could blame her Assad apologetics or her youthful support for conversion therapy for gays as red flags, but I suspect it’s the right’s interest in her — and her willingness to welcome that interest, with multiple appearances on Fox News — that’s scared off most liberals. It’s strange that she would court those votes, replete with cameos on Tucker Carlson’s show, knowing how it risks alienating her core constituency of progressives. Her party’s base loathes Carlson and was destined to find her suspicious because she doesn’t. That’s why conspiracy theories like “Tulsi’s a Russian asset” follow her around: Absent an obvious motive to make nice with righties, critics grasp for ulterior motives.
Her support among righty populists and even alt-righters is also hard to understand in turn. If it’s a foreign policy thing, is her foreign policy really that different from, say, Bernie Sanders’s? All of this explains why you see “What’s up with Tulsi Gabbard?” takes in the media way more than you do, say, “What’s up with Amy Klobuchar?” takes. Gabbard’s strategy, such as it is, is difficult to discern and so is the reason for her unique appeal to segments of the other party. She may be the only candidate running for president this year on either side of the aisle who has more fans on the other side of it than on her own.
Say this for Tulsi’s lefty supporters, though: They’re loyal.
See why Clinton’s worried about Gabbard going third-party? For an outsized segment of her supporters, it’s Tulsi or bust with respect to them turning out to vote Democratic next year.
In lieu of an exit question, go read Becket Adams regarding a very belated correction by big media to what Hillary actually said about Gabbard in that now famous interview. She did call her a “Russian asset,” but when she said that “they” are grooming her to run as an independent candidate, she (allegedly) meant that Trump and the GOP were grooming her, not the Russians. That is, Clinton might not be accusing Gabbard of being in cahoots with Moscow to influence the race next fall, just of being a useful idiot who’s following her own Kremlin-friendly foreign policy preferences.