Quick: When was the last time Hillary Clinton had a "good" week? I don't remember either.
The last big media stories about Clinton have been:
1.) She runs a shady foundation that burns a lot of money and doesn't do much real-world good.
2.) She had exchanges that looked like pay-for-play while acting as secretary of state.
3.) Because of these problems, she's been ducking the media like crazy.
4.) And don't forget there's that private email server that she shouldn't have been running that would have totally exonerated her about everything if she hadn't nuked it.
As Jack Reacher would say, not good.
And yet, in the face of what has been three solid months of bad news, Clinton's poll numbers aren't bad. Not bad at all.
Among Iowa Democrats, for instance, she's in basically the same place she was in late February: 60 percent support today compared to 61 percent back then. Nationally, things aren't quite as good. A New York Times poll last week showed her favorability numbers holding reasonably steady_35 favorable/36 unfavorable, compared to 37/26 in March.
What interests me most is what's going on underneath the top-line numbers. An NBC/Wall Street Journal poll asked respondents several questions about Clinton's character. The number most people paid attention to was "honest and straightforward"-where only 25 percent of respondents said they believed she was honest (versus 50 percent who said she wasn't).
That sounds pretty grim and Nixonian. But here's the thing: A couple questions before that, people were asked if Clinton was "effective" at "getting things done"-here the split was 44-34 in her favor. Is she "easygoing and likable"? People said yes by a margin of 41-37. The craziest response: Does she "have high moral standards that set the proper moral tone for the country?" Forty-three percent say yes versus only 39 percent who say no.
Think about that for a minute. By a margin of -25 points, people say they don't trust Hillary Clinton, but by a margin of +4 points they say she has "high moral standards."
There are only two possible conclusions from this: Either (1) Voters are idiots. Or (2) As a political commodity, Hillary Clinton's appeal is based on something other than trustworthiness.
Whichever the case, the big lesson from the last few months is that it will be very difficult for a Republican to beat Hillary Clinton by getting voters to turn against her. The Clinton cake is so thoroughly baked that there's no new evidence that's going to make people decide that suddenly, after 20 years, the scales have fallen from their eyes and they realize she's something other than what they think she is.
Instead, the Republican nominee is going to have to make a positive case for something better. It won't be enough to try to disqualify Clinton. He or she is going to have to offer a more attractive alternative vision.
(And whatever you do, don't think too hard about the fact that one out of every four Americans still thinks Clinton is "honest" and "straightforward." It's just too depressing.)
This is an excerpt from Jonathan V. Last's free weekly newsletter. Sign up for it here.