Hillary Clinton’s historically horrible week
(c) 2016, The Washington Post · Chris Cillizza · NATIONAL, OPINION, POLITICS · Nov 13, 2016 – 9:15 AM
Losing is one thing. Losing when you are absolutely certain you are going to win is another — and far, far worse.
Hillary Clinton lost the presidency on Tuesday, a race she, her campaign and virtually everyone else in the political world expected her to win. After all, she raised more money. And she used that money edge to run more TV ads in swing states and build top-tier organizations in them too. Polling — nationally and in swing states — showed Clinton ahead of Donald Trump.
Then she lost.
It was a slow-motion collapse for Clinton. Tuesday dawned full of optimism for her campaign as early voting in places like Florida and Nevada suggested that her vaunted organization was paying dividends. Early exit polling passed around the political world in the mid-afternoon suggested her campaign was on track to win a solid — and potentially large-scale — victory.
But, as night fell and more votes began to be counted, it became increasingly clear that Clinton’s seemingly-unstoppable march to the nomination had been slowed if not halted altogether. Ohio fell to Trump — by a surprisingly large margin. Then, in quick succession, Florida and North Carolina went to Trump. The map, which just a few hours before had looked so impenetrable for Trump, started to crack open.
Pennsylvania went to Trump, the first time a Republican had won the state since 1988. Then Wisconsin did too — breaking a 32-year winless streak in the state for the GOP.
By 2 am Wednesday morning, it was clear that Clinton was going to lose. But it wasn’t Clinton who spoke to her increasingly-distraught supporters in New York City. It was campaign chairman John Podesta, whose name had been in the news — and not in a good way — for the last few weeks as a subject of the WikiLeaks hack.
Clinton eventually acknowledged the obvious Wednesday morning in a New York City hotel that doubled as a morgue for her political ambitions. Campaign staff packed the room and struggled to show a smile amid a disaster made all the worse because they just hadn’t seen it coming.
“This is painful, and it will be for a long time,” Clinton admitted. She then delivered a moving tribute to resilience — that in life you get knocked down but you need to just keep getting up. “I’ve had successes and setbacks and sometimes painful ones,” Clinton said. “Many of you are at the beginning of your professional, public, and political careers – you will have successes and setbacks too. This loss hurts, but please never stop believing that fighting for what’s right is worth it.”
It was an inspiring message, yes. But also an acknowledgment by Clinton that she likely had been knocked down — in the political arena — for the last time. This was the sad coda of the career of one of the most accomplished women of her generation (or maybe any generation). Clinton’s career ended with a whimper, not a bang — a susurrus made all the more sad by its unexpectedness.