An admittedly heartbroken Hillary Clinton hinted in a conference call to her campaign’s top-dollar donors that it was FBI Director James B. Comey’s letters to Congress about his agency’s investigation into her emails that ultimately sank her bid for the White House.
“There are lots of reasons why an election like this is not successful,” Clinton said during the 30-minute call yesterday, according to The Washington Post. “But our analysis is that Comey’s letter raising doubts that were groundless, baseless, proven to be, stopped our momentum.”
Clinton stressed that Comey’s second letter, which announced she wouldn’t be charged after the agency pored over a second batch of emails during an investigation into disgraced former New York U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner, was even more damaging than his first because it enraged Trump supporters who hoped she would face criminal charges.
“We dropped, and we had to keep really pushing ahead to regain our advantage — which going into the last weekend, we had,” Clinton said. “We were once again up in all but two of the battleground states, and we were up considerably in some that we ended up losing. And we were feeling like we had put it back together,” before the second letter was released two days before Election Day.
But former New Hampshire GOP chairman Fergus Cullen said the Comey letters were far from the deciding factor in the election.
“First, she needs to look in the mirror,” Cullen told the Herald last night. “It sucks to be a basketball team who looks at that last free throw that bounced off the rim and say, ‘That was what lost us the game’ when there were all those other plays that led to the bad outcome.”
GOP strategist Matt Mackowiak said a number of other factors contributed to Trump’s surprise win, including low voter turnout, the fact that Clinton was far less of a “change candidate” than Trump, the amped-up economic anxiety around Obamacare increases, and Trump’s undervalued strategy in the traditional blue states he won.
In her call, Clinton pointed out in the nine days between Comey’s first letter to Congress on Oct. 28 and his “all clear” announcement, nearly 24 million people cast early ballots — representing about 18 percent of the expected total votes for president.
The letters, Mackowiak said, only piled onto the forces working against Clinton.
“The first FBI letter reminded people of everything they didn’t like about Hillary, being selfish, a liar, facing potential criminal liability,” he said. “Then the second played into the idea that maybe Trump’s right. Maybe things are rigged.”
Democratic strategist Scott Ferson agreed with Cullen, saying he doesn’t buy the idea that Comey’s letters are what led to her losing traditionally blue states.
“It just doesn’t seem logical to me that this affected people in the Rust Belt who maybe lost a job because of NAFTA,” Ferson said. “It was, I’m sure, a crushing loss, but it does sort of fit a pattern of blaming a conspiracy or other people who were out to get her — which I think is part of the underlying problem that she had as a candidate.”
Herald wire services contributed to this report.
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