Commentators have said that Hillary Clinton was just the wrong candidate at the wrong time facing off against the wrong opponent -- that she was doomed to lose the 2016 presidential election, considering her history in the public eye and the inherent difficulties of a party's winning three consecutive terms in the White House.
Others, particularly those in and around the Clinton campaign, place the blame on a litany of issues that dogged the Democratic nominee throughout the past year and a half.
The FBI investigation, the Russian/Wikileaks hacks, misogyny -- there is no doubt these all had an effect on voters’ image of Clinton, which is virtually impossible to accurately measure.
From different (subjective) perspectives, the staying power of each of these issues holds varying degrees of importance.
Joel Benenson, Hillary Clinton’s top campaign pollster, is relatively certain which outside factor did the most damage to Clinton’s chances: FBI director James Comey.
“We were winning this campaign,” Benenson told David Axelrod at an event held at the University of Chicago’s Institute of Politics, according to the Chicago Tribune. “We came out of the third debate consolidating our lead … and we get to 11 days out, and the director of the FBI takes an unprecedented action and throws a monkey wrench into the campaign that you couldn’t have anticipated.”
“It stalled the momentum of our defectors coming back to us (from third-party candidates) in enough numbers and it helped animate (Trump’s) defectors,” added Benenson.
The argument is not weak. While most polling numbers might have been off, when it came down to it, the final vote margins in the all-important states of Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Michigan were extremely small. And, in the end, the Clinton campaign won the popular vote by over two million votes.
Those less favorable to Clinton might think otherwise, and not without good reason. Any time Hillary Clinton runs for office, her poll numbers plummet, pointing to deeply rooted problems connecting with voters.
The slim margins by which Trump won the states of Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin, however, lead one to presume that the Electoral College outcome on Nov. 8 might have been different had the FBI director acted differently.