I am going to cut the suspense and flat out answer the question. Sometimes winning is worse. As for example, this presidential election. Let’s start with Hillary Clinton. Her campaign theme is “Stronger Together” but her campaign shows that she still has 60% of the voters who have an unfavorable opinion of her (2 points worse than Donald Trump) and more than that do not trust her. While Democrats and Republicans, lawyers and non-lawyers, and pundits and more pundits will argue about FBI Director James Comey announcing publicly the continuation of the investigation of her private use of an email service, the fact is that this issue was going to come out anyway. Is it better to have an election then spend the next few months – including the interim until Inauguration and the first 100 Days – under a cloud of FBI and Congressional investigations? Or is it better to know before millions of Americans vote? Mrs. Clinton can charge that this is dirty politics but there are serious questions at stake here. Mr. Comey already stated that her actions were “reckless” but why did her email exchanges show up in a computer of Anthony Weiner, as part of an investigation of his alleged (admitted) activities? Mrs. Clinton may continue to cry foul but why does she remind so many people of Pig Pen, the character in Peanuts that is always surrounded by a cloud of dirt?
And that is the point. For many Americans she is “better” than Mr. Trump, but even then that is not enough to vote for her. Lots of us are better than Mr. Trump but do you know any of us to be President? To drive your kids’ school bus? To file your taxes? To hear your confession? We as a people seem to have a higher bar. Since the days of President Nixon, who famously told a news conference that he was “not a crook”, there has not been even a hint of a serious personal scandal involving Presidents Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush 41 and 42, and Obama. Bill Clinton is not a member of that club. Nor were there any involving Messrs. Mondale, Dukakis, Dole, Gore, Kerry, McCain, or Romney. And even without any indictments against Mrs. Clinton, there have been plenty of hints of scandal. Can they all have been manufactured?
That is the point. President Clinton was a good President but his biography and historical rendition reads that he was lacking in moral character. The Clinton Foundation has done many good things but it also is a gravy train for longtime Clinton staffers, including the Clintons themselves. Never a whiff of scandal at the Carter Center or the Bush Library.
All of this is why this election is even close in the first place. Historically (a popular incumbent President with a record of genuine accomplishment), the Electoral College (a Democrat should be able to count on 242 electoral votes just for showing up), demographics (the growing numbers of non-whites and Millennials in the electorate), and the state of disarray in the opposition (four wings of the GOP who don’t pass each other’s ideological litmus tests) – all of this should point to a Democratic landslide. Add to all of that that the Republican nominee has serially insulted women, Hispanics, veterans, Muslims, the physically challenged and more. As Mrs. Clinton asked herself, “Why is this even close?”
We have multiple news cycles remaining before Election Day. There will no doubt be multiple revelations against both sides. But none of this helps Mrs. Clinton.
She may be “better” on the issues, or at least some of the time because lots of natural allies do not quite trust her, but the real question she should asking is “why do I really want this job?” Does she really want to be investigated from day one? Does she really want her agenda – including a ninth Supreme Court Justice – held up in the Senate? Does she really want her legacy to be just like her husband’s – i.e. competent, capable, but always under a cloud of suspicion?
Sometimes winning can be worse than losing.