The received wisdom on both sides of the aisle has long been that, whatever private and anonymous fretting you might read about from alleged high level Democrat insiders, we should all assume that Hillary is going to get the Democrat nomination until and and unless she either a) is pronounced dead by a physician that you know personally or b) the final gavel of the Democrat convention actually drops with another person as the nominee.
Up until this point, there hasn’t been very convincing evidence to doubt this wisdom. Sure, there was early buzz around Bernie Sanders’ candidacy, and private whisperings that high level donors were discontent with the way Hillary has handled email-gate, but there’s really absolutely no substitute in politics for a 50 point lead in the polls. When you are ahead of your closest contender by over 50 points, you can afford to ignore all the backroom whispering, along with your opponents, the press, everybody.
The equation has now officially changed. Hillary is now polling below 50% (albeit barely) and her closest contender has crept to within 25 points. While this is still a hefty cushion, it isn’t one that allows her to absolutely ignore the existence of other Democrats in the field, as she has been, and to black hole the press, content in the knowledge that she can coast to a win on the strength of her name ID alone.
Now, Hillary has to actually engage Bernie Sanders on his terms, which can only serve to make her less electable in the general as it will affect her ability to triangulate to the center. Worse, Bernie Sanders is by all accounts not a serious Presidential candidate, and his success must be encouraging other, more serious threats to Hillary to throw their hats in the ring. The fact that a stubborn 10-15% of the Democrat electorate remains committed to Joe Biden despite the fact that he is, by all accounts, not running – is indication that anti-Hillary sentiment might be even more resistent to eradication than previously believed.
Believe that if Sanders gets to within 20 points, or Hillary starts polling under 45, someone – be that Biden, Warren, or Al Gore – will find the prospect of riding in on a white horse too tempting to pass up. And if that happens, it’s Katie, Bar the Door on this Democrat primary. Because Hillary’s strategy thus far has been entirely geared towards accepting a coronation, not fighting for a nomination. The experience of 2008 would suggest that if the contest becomes the latter, Hillary is unable or unwilling to appropriately shift gears to meet such a challenge, particularly from the left.
This is all the more true given that the press has at long last smelled blood in the Clinton water. Even the most hopeless of Clinton fluffers like Ruth Marcus have been forced to admit (while dishonestly claiming there is no reason for Clinton to fear legal trouble) that email-gate may have mortally wounded Clinton’s chances, as it hits all the aspects of Camp Clinton that voters hate worst.
At the end of the day, the folks who think Clinton is going to face any criminal prosecution for email gate are probably deluding themselves. If that danger becomes real, Obama can and will both immediately solve it and kill her chances at the nomination by pardoning her. But the political danger to Clinton is, at this point, very real and obvious, and she cannot continue to ignore it. And having to answer substantive questions regarding it is, based on yesterday’s impromptu press conference disaster, a recipe for failure.