January 20, 2016
The way she drew it up, a year from today, you’ll see her standing on the west steps of the Capitol, raising her right hand and swearing an oath to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States of America. It could easily still happen, but not if she has several more January 19ths.
Three things can prevent Hillary’s inauguration. Losing the nomination, losing the general election, getting indicted. The last of those items would of course impact the first two. It’s also virtually impossible to put odds on.
Too many variables. We don’t know what else there is, we don’t know if and to what extent the administration will put their finger on the scale. We don’t know exactly how another candidate, be it Joe Biden, the ghost of John Kerry, Jerry Brown, whomever, would go about entering the race past the deadline in many states.
I’m absolutely positive a conversation about any of the above doesn’t help Hillary. While we’ve often talked about her inevitability, she actually relies on the image of competency. You don’t have to like her, you don’t have to trust her, you only need to believe she can get the job done.
Whenever the email story returns with a legitimately new development (this time it’s the discovery of a few extremely classified documents), it calls the competence into question. Partly it’s the “how the hell did you leave this stuff in your hackable personal server?” The rest is “can she actually get this done?” The second of those is the more devastating.
Bernie Sanders is starting to win the hearts of a dangerous amount of Democrats. He’s not all the way there yet. Iowa and New Hampshire aren’t America. You can’t win over the Democratic Party without getting minority voters to really buy in. Having said that, progressive whites and young people count too.
Unless you believe Hillary will keep a 50 to 60 point advantage with minority voters once the race leaves Iowa and New Hampshire and moves to places where Bernie can spend significant time trying to close the gap, the deciding factor is how older, more moderate white men vote.
These guys are loyal Democrats. They’d have to be, as a 58-year-old white guy without a post-grad degree is supposed to vote Republican these days. This is the voter Hillary is speaking to when running ads about her electability and how Karl Rove is trying to help knock her down now so the GOP can face Bernie.
If you aren’t too worried about Hillary running into legal trouble, and perhaps more importantly, aren’t concerned that Republicans will successfully use the emails to push Independent voters away in November, then picking her instead of the old socialist from Brooklyn makes sense.
Even if you like him, the specter of a GOP president, combined with a Republican Congress might be too much to bear. If she can convince less ideological voters that he imperils the chances of winning the Senate back, will cost governorships, lead to more wreckage in the House, etc., they’ll stay with her.
There is absolutely no current data to back Hillary up. Bernie does as well or better in most matchups with most GOP contenders. Relying on these as gospel this far out is absurd, but the presently existing numbers are favorable to him. Bernie is spending a lot of time talking about polls now, doing his version of the Trump at his rallies.
Without numerical evidence, she needs to rely on logic. Dem voters need to simultaneously worry that Trump, Ted Cruz, or some other extremely loathsome candidate is truly possible and that in a world where Donald Trump is the GOP nominee, Bernie Sanders is still an implausible general election candidate himself.
It’s very possible that for each voter thinking it’s not worth taking any chances that would result in President Trump or President Cruz, there’s another voter thinking there’s no way the country would actually elect either of those, so why not nominate Bernie who they like better and think could beat one of them, if not a more mainstream candidate like Marco Rubio or John Kasich.
Bernie Sanders is a real candidate now. If you are regularly talking about electability, if the average voter is beginning to get an idea of what you stand for, if you are spending a bunch of time contrasting yourself with your main opponent, you’re a real candidate. He’s acting like he wants to win, not just make a point.
He’s not going to talk about the emails. He may have shifted on manufacturer responsibility for how guns are used, he might have a new health care plan out, his ads might be a tiny bit more aggressive than he indicated they would be, he may have called Bill Clinton’s conduct disgraceful, but he’s not going to talk about the damn emails.
However, every minute Hillary or one of her staffers or surrogates is discussing them is a minute where they can’t fire back against Sanders. Bernie doesn’t need to say a word to make this happen. He’s adjusted enough to move from a movement candidate to a serious one, but hasn’t yet crossed the line where he’s just another politician.
At this point, the Clinton campaign needs to create most of the energy to put Bernie on the defensive. Sanders does not have to do the same. This asymmetry, which Hillary remembers from 2008, is hugely important. She and her people are starting to spend a lot of time bashing Bernie. Given how popular he is, this is somewhat dangerous, and the media isn’t piling on yet.
Conservative media types are more than happy to see Hillary suffer, the same way they were in 2008. They are not going to throw her a lifeline by attacking Sanders. Progressive media types like Bernie. They at least want him to get a fair hearing, likely agree with him more and don’t see a need to rally around Hillary just yet.
Then there’s the regular left-leaning, not as ideological, just want a good storyline and high ratings mainstream media. If Hillary wins Iowa, there’s no story on that side. Bernie is a good story, having younger voters paying more attention to news content is good. Why do anything to stop this yet?
Hillary is hardly finished. In August, she suffered from a similarly bad narrative, when a combination of email news, very unsteady communication, Biden speculation and the first Bernie boom conspired to put a cloud over her world.
During a short stretch in October, she turned the tide. A strong first debate performance, Biden’s decision not to run, Kevin McCarthy slamming his foot down his throat on the purpose of the Benghazi committee, and her performance in front of said committee immediately afterwards, turned the tables quickly and somewhat durably.
Clinton doesn’t have a month to figure it out this time. Iowa votes in less than two weeks. In 2008, she was able to recover from a disappointing Iowa performance in New Hampshire. This was aided by a debate, in which Senator Obama responded to a question by saying Hillary was “likeable enough.”
The DNC’s next scheduled debate is February 11, after New Hampshire, costing Hillary the chance to use a pre-Iowa or pre-New Hampshire debate to alter the terrain. Republicans will get two chances before Democrats joust again.
Instead of bumbling Republicans discussing Benghazi, she gets to deal with the movie 13 Hours. It’s not going to convince scores of Democrats to vote for Bernie, but it’s one more small thing to put her on defense.
Each of these things reduces the bandwidth for pushing back against Bernie. Each reduces the odds of having someone not linked to Hillary participate in the counter-effort. It certainly won’t keep first-time pro-Bernie caucusers from turning out, or O’Malley supporters in Iowa from shifting to Bernie when their first choice falls short of the 15% viability test at each caucus location.
Did I mention a CNN/WMUR New Hampshire poll out yesterday that showed Bernie ahead 60/33? It’s one poll, it’s an outlier for now, Iowa still votes first, he lives next door, she was already trailing. It’s also not a helpful topic.
Hillary ended January 18, 2016 in the lead and she began January 20, 2016 in the lead. But yesterday absolutely, completely, and totally sucked for her campaign.