One of 1945’s most popular songs had a rather bizarre title, which actually included phonetic spelling.
‘Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate the Positive’ was written by Broadway legends Harold Arlen and Johnny Mercer and has been covered by singers from The Andrews Sisters to Paul McCartney.
‘You’ve got to accentuate the positive,’ Mercer’s lyrics advised, ‘and latch on to the affirmative.’
We thought of those words after reading some astounding new poll numbers. Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are setting records for latching on to negative feelings among voters.
The latest Washington Post/ABC News poll has both nominees viewed unfavorably by 57% of the American people.
Their positive ratings are slightly higher than lawyers and newspaper reporters, a bit lower than auto mechanics.
Mrs. Clinton’s popularity, which peaked during her tenure as Secretary of State, has been on a steep decline. And it may take another hit after this week’s scathing report about her private email server.
Trump has been moving in the other direction, but he started with some mighty lofty negatives. Even in his days as a reality show host, his favorables hovered around 50%.
So where does this leave us with the general election just six months away?
Both candidates claim they have enough time to win over millions of American voters. Trump will probably be a little softer and more dignified. And Clinton will eventually shake free of that annoying, yapping pup known as Bernie Sanders. Her campaign insists that being the official nominee will enable her to channel Dale Carnegie and win friends and influence people.
But there’s a problem in that analysis.
Both Clinton and Trump are extraordinarily well known, having been on the national stage for decades. Only about 3% of Americans don’t have an opinion on them. And those opinions will be tougher to turn around than the proverbial battleship.
To Donald Trump’s ardent supporters, he can do no wrong. So he has to go after the rest of the electorate by being less demeaning and insulting. Shock and awe have worked well thus far, but he has to cut down on the Vince Foster conspiracy theories and the more salacious Bill Clinton accusations.
Hillary Clinton’s base of fans is less enthusiastic, so she should focus on winning over the fevered Sanders crowd. She is not a natural campaigner, but she usually does well in one-on-one interviews.
So, Madam Secretary, how about giving some interviews where you may face a few tough questions? You know, the kind of questions you won’t get from George Stephanopoulos, Chris Cuomo, or the mononymous Ellen.
Mrs. Clinton missed a great opportunity when she declined to participate in a Fox News debate with Bernie Sanders in California. True, she has little to gain, given that her nomination is a foregone conclusion. But it was a chance to reach a different audience and showcase her knack for thinking on her feet.
Of course, it goes without saying that Hillary Clinton has an open invitation to visit the friendly confines of the No Spin Zone. Ours is a venue where independent thinkers will see her and make up their own minds.
One more very interesting thing about favorability ratings in this strangest of years. A new poll looked at the popularity of candidates’ spouses over recent decades. Barbara Bush was liked by 75% of Americans in 1992, while Laura Bush and Michelle Obama were also extremely popular.
This time around? Melania Trump is viewed unfavorably by more than 30% of Americans, while potential ‘First Man’ Bill Clinton is even less popular.
Over the past 25 years only one presidential spouse has been more disliked than Melania and Bill.
Can you guess who? Of course, Hillary Clinton in 1996.
The woman certainly has a knack for polarizing the American public. And now, in Donald Trump, she has finally met her match.