Election 2016: The Collapse of Hillary’s Opposition
Over the past couple weeks, everything’s been coming up Hillary.
For a while the former Secretary of State was looking harried: a still-simmering email and Benghazi scandal, a far-left opponent gaining traction in polls, and shadow-boxing with Joe Biden’s potential candidacy have all taken their toll on her numbers and energy.
Not so any longer, it seems.
One by one, her foes have given ground. At the first Democratic debate she stood far above her challengers, and was even helped by Bernie Sanders (the only candidate within spitting distance of her), who refused to nail her on the still-ongoing email probe. Soon after the debate, the petulant and out-of-place Jim Webb dropped out of the race, and has since been followed out the door by Lincoln Chafee. And Joe Biden has dropped phantom bid as well, leaving voters and donors wavering on Hillary with nowhere to go.
Better still (from Hillary’s perspective), the Republicans ended up making a mess of the Benghazi hearings. While there was (and still is) some merit in the committee’s exploration of Administration failures in dealing with the attack on the US consulate in Libya, it was also clear that the virulence of the committee’s inquiry, and its focus on Hillary in particular, was partially motivated by a desire to knock her down a few pegs in the run-up to the election.
When House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy said what everyone already knew, it sheered off much of the veneer of legitimacy the inquiry had built up. When Hillary appeared before the committee on Thursday, she was calm and exceptionally well prepared. She succeeded insofar as the GOP-led committee failed to land any meaningful blows on her over the course of the grueling 11-hour session.
Hillary now seems poised to glide to the nomination. However, there are a few dark clouds still on the horizon. Bernie’s campaign remains energetic, and he has made very significant gains in the early voting states despite his continued lag in national polls. Wins in Iowa and New Hampshire might serve as a springboard for him to drive further into the primary season, but his relative lack of funding and national support make that prospect unlikely.
The more worrisome storm front comes from the continuing email scandal. It seems unlikely that the FBI will find a proverbial smoking gun among her correspondence, but if a proliferation of classified or sensitive documents and communications do emerge then she might be in trouble. Even if she is eventually cleared, an indictment would put a real damper on her image and her ability to contest the election, especially in the general election when these issues will most definitely be more aggressively pursued.
But for now, Hillary is riding high. And given the fiasco that is the GOP primary, she still has every reason to be smiling.