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Hillary's honesty problem hits home in NH

The exit poll of voters in the New Hampshire Democratic primary found that Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders won 92 percent of those who said honesty is the most important candidate characteristic - to 6 percent for Hillary Clinton.

NASHUA, N.H. – Voters in New Hampshire's Democratic primary decided that the "L word" applies to Hillary Clinton.

No, not "liberal." It's the one that rhymes with "fire" and denotes a problem with honesty.

Just over a third of the voters (34 percent) in the primary said that honesty was the most important character trait in their decision on whom to support. Of that group, Sen. Bernie Sanders won 92 percent of their votes, to 6 percent for Clinton, according to exit polls.


Sanders defeated Clinton by a landslide Tuesday, winning more votes than anyone else in the history of New Hampshire presidential primaries. That big a victory will skew some exit poll numbers -- but 92-6?

Ron Senet, 33, of Londonderry, told my colleague Maddie Hanna that he voted for the Vermont senator because "I just feel that he's not owned by anyone. I like his ideas," even though he's not sure how realistic they are.

But "I don't trust Clinton," said Senet, who works in the automotive industry. "I think she's just a part of the political regime."

Clinton's campaign has batted aside any suggestion that her use of a private email server while secretary of state is a political problem for her. The FBI is investigating the setup, in particular instances in which highly classified information wound up on the system, instead of on State's secure, encrypted communications links.

Whenever she's been confronted with questions about her honesty and trustworthiness, which have shown up in polling before, Clinton's standard response is that the perception is the result of decades of Republican smears, not a character flaw on her part.

"Read behavioral science, read psychology," Hillary Clinton told MSNBC journalist Rachel Maddow during an in-depth interview this week. "Even when the attacks are untrue, it leaves a residue….There is a concerted effort to try to make partisan advantage by really trying to throw so much at me that even if little splotches of it stick, it will cloud people's judgment of me. That's a burden I carry."

It's true that Republicans over the years have hit Clinton hard for a variety of things, some of it vicious or exaggerated. But she's handed them plenty of ammunition, too, and it is noteworthy that she appears to think she has no responsibility for perceptions that she is not trustworthy.