For a decade, we’ve been told that Hillary Clinton is “inevitable.” Yet it seems that whenever she’s within striking distance of the presidency, serious obstacles challenge the validity of that narrative.
In 2008, she couldn’t out-maneuver upstart Senator Barack Obama. Today, she’s plagued by the scandal surrounding her private email server, the details of which seem to worsen with every new drop in her polling.
Her campaign is increasingly facing headlines such as “Hillary Clinton Says She Cannot Explain Why Previously Undisclosed Emails Turned Up,” and “Yes, Hillary Clinton Broke the Law.”
Meanwhile, Meet the Press host Chuck Todd asked her this past Sunday, “Can you say with 100 percent certainty that the deleted emails, that the FBI’s not going to find anything in there that’s going to cause you to have to explain again?” Her response? “All I can tell you is that when my attorneys conducted this exhaustive process, I did not participate.” When pressed further, Clinton explained that the technical aspects of what’s going on are “beyond her understanding.”
These aren’t exactly satisfactory answers when voters are wondering why the FBI is parsing through the deleted emails of the Democratic frontrunner and contemplating whether or not she compromised classified information.
As Andrea Mitchell said on Meet the Press after Clinton’s interview:
She is carefully saying that I’m not an IT person, I’m not technical, we know that about her. It was the IT people, it was the lawyers who decided which emails to delete, which to turn over. So she’s building in deniability …. But she’s basically not dealing with the question that there is this continued drip, drip, drip. And she cannot get to the policies that she wants to talk about. She tries to pivot to it. She does in (Todd’s) interview …. But she can’t, this is all …. overshadowing what she really wants to be talking about. And that is the reason why she is hurting in the polls.
Hurting in the polls is right. Clinton’s favorability ratings are upside down, and according to a recent Bloomberg poll, she’s only on top of the Democratic field by eight points, when she was once the prohibitive favorite. She’s also slipping in key early states, with Bernie Sanders ahead of her in New Hampshire—and that’s without Joe Biden stepping in. Were Biden to enter the race, the situation would look even bleaker for Clinton.
Despite the challenges she faces, however, leading political prognosticator Nate Silver predicts she will prevail as the Democratic nominee. As he wrote earlier this month, “So then: Clinton is toast? Probably not. In the assessment of betting markets, she’s still a reasonably heavy favorite for the Democratic nomination. That’s my assessment too.”
Still, all of the negative news stories could hurt Clinton with potential swing voters. She is now neck-in-neck in a potential general election contest with GOP candidates Ben Carson, Jeb Bush, and Carly Fiorina. Prior polls also show her losing to Rand Paul and Marco Rubio nationwide. As it stands, only 39 percent of voters see her favorably.
Whether Clinton can turn that around, win the Democratic nomination, and clinch the general is still an open question. It will likely depend in large part on how the GOP field shakes out in the coming months.