Hillary Clinton’s Slide: Benghazi Toll?

Photograph by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton testifies before the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Capitol Hill on January 23, 2013 about the security failures during the September 11 attacks against the U.S. mission in Benghazi, Libya, that led to the death of four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens.

Fresh evidence here that, for Republicans, Benghazi is all about Hillary:

While the former secretary of state is potentially the Democrat to beat in a 2016 presidential contest, her handling of the fatal assaults on a U.S. mission in Benghazi, Libya, may already have taken a toll on her formidable popularity — which may well be the motivation behind the relentless Republican congressional drumbeat on the Obama administration’s handling of an ambassador’s slaying.

Clinton, also a former senator from New York and first lady, left the State Department with commanding numbers: 61 percent favorable ratings in a February Quinnipiac University survey. That compared with a 34 percent negative rating.

Today, Quinnipiac reports a 52 percent favorability rating for Clinton in its latest national survey — and a 40 percent negative rating.

“Her score is down substantially from her all-time high,” says Peter Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac Polling Institute. “One reason for her drop may be that 48 percent of voters blame her either a little or a lot for the death of the American ambassador in Benghazi.”

Envoy Chris Stevens was among four Americans killed in the Sept. 11 attack by terrorists — an act of terrorism which Republicans maintain the Obama administration was slow to acknowlege. The White House’s recent release of emails following the attack show that it was not 1600 Pennsylvania so much as the CIA and State Department which were torn over the “talking points.”

Obama has called the continuing congressional focus on the episode a “circus.” House Speaker John Boehner pledges “more hearings” to come.

While losing some of her luster in the past few months, the survey also shows that Clinton holds a strong position in which to consider a possible 2016 presidential campaign. Matched against a couple of the Republican Party’s big names — Republican Jeb Bush of Florida and Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky — Clinton holds an eight percentage point advantage in a hypothetical matchup. Vice President Joe Biden, on the other hand, trails either Republican.

“Clinton remains the queen of the 2016 hill at this point, but the wide gap between her and some of the leading Republican contenders on favorability may be closing, as her overall favorability has taken a hit,” Brown says.

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