January 8 was a bad day for former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. The Democratic presidential frontrunner(according to some), who had largely put her summertime e-mail scandal to bed, suddenly found herself back in the crosshairs after the latest batch of released State Department e-mails revealed that she was fully aware that department personnel should be using government e-mail accounts. In a released e-mail from February 2011, Clinton expressed surprise that a fellow State Department official, John Godfrey, was using a personal e-mail account instead of a department e-mail account. Thus far, this has been the strongest piece of evidence confirming that Clinton knew, or should have known, that her own use of a private e-mail server for her Secretary of State correspondence was improper.
A second e-mail has riled critics even further. In June 2011, Clinton told aides to send a document “nonsecure” after they reported having difficulty using a secure fax. This lapse in judgment reinforces conservatives’ insistence that Clinton put national security at risk by allowing classified material to be transferred and stored in an unsecure manner. Though only the staunchest Clinton critics and most aggressive Republicans have suggest that the former Secretary of State be indicted for criminal negligence, it is very likely that Clinton’s e-mail woes will undermine her appeal among moderate and independent voters.
The latest batch of released e-mails only further entrenches the notion that Hillary Clinton believes she is above the rules meant to be followed by the rest of us.
Unfortunately for Clinton, her bad day did not end with the two damning e-mails. In New Hampshire, the second primary election state, challenger Bernie Sanders is soaring in the polls. Though Clinton still clings to her lead in Iowa, the first primary election state, she has been barnstorming New Hampshire to try and cut off Bernie Sanders before he can build up a head of steam. If Sanders can win in New Hampshire, it will mean that Clinton is in for a true primary election fight…similar to the fight she lost in 2008, when rookie U.S. Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) won some early upset victories and quickly developed a critical mass of support.
Being unable to win in both Iowa and New Hampshire may force Clinton’s campaign to relive its slow, painful erosion from 2008, when the U.S. Senator from New York slid from being the undisputed frontrunner to losing the nomination to a more-liberal outsider. And the news from Iowa isn’t good for Clinton, either: Though she holds her lead in the polls, TIME reports that the “caucus math” stands to boost Bernie Sanders. This math, explains the article, tends to minimize the margin of victory or loss, meaning that Clinton is unlikely to win a clear victory on February 1.
For a candidate whose entire case to voters hinges on her alleged electability, a weak “victory” over Bernie Sanders in Iowa and a sound defeat in New Hampshire could be devastating. No longer assured of Clinton’s “inevitability,” horders of tentative Clinton supporters may defect to Sanders, whom they admire personally. Having made little attempt to tout her political positions and proposals, Clinton is gambling everything on merely looking strong. As a result, any sign of weakness will be devastating.
In addition to bad news in the polls, Hillary Clinton is also facing continued bad news over husband Bill, the former president who is now stumping for his wife. The widely-known philanderer, who faces renewed scrutiny over old allegations of sexual assault, has been brazenly attacked by Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump. With Hillary Clinton running as an ardent feminist this time around, highlighting her husband’s past sexual indiscretions forces her supporters into an uncomfortable spot. Since Clinton has steadfastly stood by her man, how can devout feminists reconcile their support for Hillary with Bill Clinton’s notorious past? Bernie Sanders has just increased their discomfort by criticizing Bill Clinton’s past extramarital dalliances, effectively revealing that he will not give Bill and Hillary Clinton a “free pass” for past misbehavior.
Essentially, those who choose to support the Clinton empire in 2016 will not be allowed to overlook its controversial past. Bernie Sanders and his campaign will force a hard choice to be made – nobody will be let off the hook. Tough choices must be made, and there is no middle ground. If you vote for Hillary Clinton, you must do so with full recognizance of the controversial behavior of both her and her husband.
This bad day may have struck fear into the Clinton camp, for the former Secretary of State took the opportunity to lash out against Bernie Sanders on gun control. In her strongest attacks yet, Clinton implored Bernie Sanders to “admit that he was wrong” on his prior gun control stances. Unfortunately for her, the admonitions sounded whiny and bitter, influenced by fears over Iowa and New Hampshire.
With gun control considered to be the one political issue where Clinton more liberal than Sanders, it would seem to be bad strategy to begin demanding apologies for past votes. Such a maneuver gives Sanders and his supporters ample opportunity to demand that Clinton admit her own errors in judgment on…well, everything else. From Clinton’s support of conservative welfare reform to the Defense of Marriage Act to her vote on invading Iraq, there is a lot of wrongdoing to be admitted. Trying to push Sanders onto an apology tour may backfire spectacularly, with voters demanding a laundry list of apologies from Hillary Clinton, especially for the years 1996 to 2002.
And Bernie Sanders himself seems miffed with Clinton’s gall, taking to Twitter to highlight a gun control spat between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama during the 2008 Democratic primaries. In addition to putting Clinton in a tight spot, especially as she tries to secure the pro-establishment backing of the Obama White House, a growing gun control spat could reinforce a charge by the Sanders camp that Clinton is failing to focus on economic reform, which is more important to voters. The more time Clinton spends attacking Sanders on gun control, the easier it is for his campaign to accuse her of forgetting her own husband’s 1992 message of “it’s the economy, stupid.”
Driven by anger and desperation, Clinton could be attacking Sanders over a relatively niche issue, ceding the vast territory of economic reform to the progressives in exchange for a few token gains on the gun control front. This will backfire and give Sanders the edge as we head into February.