A.B. Stoddard: Caught in her own web

Hollywood couldn’t have written better October surprises for Hillary ClintonHillary Rodham ClintonDem senator: Pardoning targets of Russia probe would be 'crossing a fundamental line' Trump officials: Russia meddled in the election Trump lawyers asking about presidential pardon powers: report MORE.

In her party’s first debate this cycle, the Democratic front-runner’s main competitor for the nomination dismissed her email scandal. 

Then Vice President Biden refused to run against her. 

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Then House Republicans said the Benghazi Select Committee was designed to damage her politically — and in its 11 hours of questioning Clinton managed to damage House Republicans and not the former secretary of State, who was at the helm during the 2012 terrorist attacks that killed four Americans, including a U.S. ambassador.

Clinton rebounded from the political dumpster in just days, with polls showing she now leads Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) in early states and nationwide. 

But while she may be the nominee-to-be, the road from the Democratic convention to the White House won’t be as smooth.

In the new NBC/Wall Street Journal poll, even though Clinton beats most GOP candidates, Sanders performs better against them, and she loses independents in every match-up. Her numbers on honesty and trustworthiness, according to Qiunnipiac, are 36 percent to 60 percent — worse than for any candidate in either party.

With an FBI investigation into her email server still ongoing, and her credibility in the tank, Clinton still makes some party operatives quite nervous.

“Hillary has gone through a rapid and remarkable rehabilitation with Democrats,” said one Democratic strategist, “but significant challenges remain with the broader electorate. This is likely to be a very competitive election, regardless of who the Republicans choose.”

Democrats noticed the rare pushback from FBI agents last month when President Obama said of Clinton’s email server, “I don’t think it posed a national security problem,” as if he’d already decided what the probe would conclude. The president said something similar in public in 2012 when Gen. David Petraeus was being investigated for mishandling classified information. And though the Justice Department ultimately overruled the FBI, Director James Comey, who is currently overseeing the Clinton probe, had recommended felony charges and a potential prison sentence for Petraeus.

Democrats say they must brace themselves for more leaked emails and a pattern of Clinton statements that turn out later to be false. 

Clinton said she was transparent, yet her emails were under congressional subpoena for years while she kept her private server a secret. 

Clinton said she used one device at State for convenience, but she in fact used several. 

She said her email server was destroyed, but it was not. 

She said she handed over all work emails to the State Department, but then congressional investigators turned up others. 

She said she responded to a routine records request from the State Department and turned over her emails when several other secretaries of State did, but State officials were asking for her emails in response to Freedom of Information Act requests and congressional investigations months before that.

Clinton said the State Department affirmed that 90 percent of her work email was captured on the State.gov accounts of other employees — a statistic department officials conceded, after she repeated it under oath in her Benghazi Committee testimony, they know nothing about. 

Clinton claimed in March “there is no classified material,” yet indeed there was. 

Clinton has repeated numerous times that the arrangement was “allowed,” though no one in the administration has ever said they approved her server. So Democrats — like Republicans — assume she is making a misleading statement about her own unorthodox decision to do something no Cabinet secretary had ever before done.

When asked on NBC’s “Meet The Press” whether she deleted any emails to hide information from future investigations, Clinton said the idea “never crossed my mind.” The idea will be crossing the minds of voters next year, should Clinton prevail and win her party’s nomination. 

Republicans will make sure of it.

Stoddard is an associate editor of The Hill.