The consequences of cause and effect are sometimes not what you’d expect. When former secretary of state Hillary Clinton referred to Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard as a “favorite” of the Russian government, I can’t begin to imagine what was going through the former first lady’s mind. Did Hillary believe that using such harsh language would cause Gabbard’s supporters to abandon her overnight in a “Do as I say” kind of response?
Of course, we now know the opposite action seems to have occurred. Rather than risk missing the November debate entirely, Hillary’s comments against Gabbard served to raise her profile and almost overnight turn her into a cause célèbre for some disaffected Democrats unwilling to toe the line for the party establishment.
In short, Tulsi Gabbard can probably send Hillary a “Thank You” card for helping her earn at least one more spot in the national limelight. As CNN reports, the timing of Gabbard’s polling bounce doesn’t seem coincidental:
After Clinton’s attack on Gabbard — calling her “favorite of the Russians” — the Hawaii Democrat’s poll numbers rose, earning her a place on the November debate stage.
Before the Democratic debate on October 15, Gabbard looked like she was going to miss November’s debate. Candidates needed to hit at least 3% in four qualifying polls. Gabbard had never hit that 3% mark in any qualifying poll this entire year.
Then Clinton’s remarks came on October 17.
Following Clinton’s podcast appearance, Gabbard got a qualifying poll from Suffolk University Iowa poll that was taken partially before Clinton’s comments and partially after.
She then reached 5% in a CNN/University of New Hampshire poll conducted the following week. Over that same period, Suffolk gave Gabbard another qualifying poll. Finally, she earned 3% in a Quinnipiac University poll from Iowa this past week.
Four qualifying polls means Gabbard is in the November debate, where she’ll be able to spread a message that Clinton is not a fan of.
With every intention of shutting down Gabbard’s campaign, for some inexplicable reason, Hillary ended up boosting Gabbard’s profile and probably helping her garner a lot of Google searches.
Before Hillary’s statement, Gabbard seemed destined to continue fading into polling obscurity and likely wouldn’t come close to hitting the mark for November. So unlikely was Gabbard’s debate prospects, it seemed, that we had already written about the nine candidates most likely to round out the November debate stage.
Then the poll numbers started rolling in for Gabbard and she earned a debate spot in a matter of days just before the deadline.
Why the backlash against Hillary in support of Gabbard? CNN says it’s because there is a slice of Democratic primary voters who detest Hillary and didn’t support her in 2016:
What Clinton may not have foreseen is that there are some Democratic primary voters who aren’t fans of hers. In our CNN poll of likely New Hampshire Democratic primary, Gabbard got 2% among those who said they voted for Clinton in the 2016 general election. She only reached 5% overall thanks to scoring 10% of those who said they didn’t vote for Clinton in the 2016 general election.
Gabbard was already tapping into this vein with her anti-establishment candidacy, but Hillary’s comments seemed to nearly double the number of poll respondents supporting her.
The kicker in all this is that thanks to the boost, not only has Gabbard made the November debate but she already has two polls that go toward qualifying for the December debate as well.
In an effort to quiet a voice in the primary, Hillary may have helped to amplify it and give it another national audience to speak to.