Stoddard: Clouds loom for Clinton

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Things could be worse for Hillary Clinton’s presidential candidacy, perhaps an indictment pending in her email scandal, but these are still awful days in her campaign. While there are many threats to her prospects she cannot control, like an FBI investigation, she could surely butter up Bernie Sanders and stop bleeding support from his impassioned supporters. But instead, Clinton is making things worse.

Even though many Democrats are growing increasingly aggravated by Sanders overstaying his welcome in the primary contest, Clinton should leave it to others to throw salt in the wound. Declining a final debate with the Vermont senator and declaring herself the presumptive nominee on CNN last week has only made Sanders more defiant and could further injure Clinton’s own wounded campaign against a surging Donald Trump, who stands to win over some disgruntled Sanders voters on the issue of trade.  

{mosads}As Clinton urges Sanders to wrap it up and “do his part” to unite the party the way she did with then Barack Obama in 2008, he is requesting a recount in Kentucky over a single delegate, planning floor votes over rule changes at what he predicts will be a “messy” convention in July and insists he is “invigorating” the party. 

Sure he is losing staff and his money’s drying up, but it’s full speed ahead to try and win California on June 7 and undermine the former first lady despite knowing her delegate lead is “insurmountable,” as she has reminded him. Unity isn’t top of mind for Sanders these days. As he railed against the presumptive nominee for insulting voters from the nation’s largest state by refusing to debate, Sanders sniffed, he was “disappointed, although not surprised.”

The Democratic National Committee (DNC) permitted the senator to choose five of the 15 members on the panel drafting the party’s platform, but that olive branch has not seemed to assuage him. And offering up a scalp, like that of DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz — an idea floated by several Democratic lawmakers and reported Tuesday in The Hill — may not be enough to win over Bernie or Busters. It is up to Clinton herself, not Democratic superdelegates pondering the leadership of the DNC, to convince Sanders voters she appreciates their sense of disenfranchisement as well as their policy priorities.

Meanwhile, her durable lead against presumptive GOP nominee Trump, which was for months in double digits, has now evaporated. So it’s a bad week for the news to break that a State Department inspector general report has concluded “Clinton violated the agency’s email rules when she chose to exclusively use a private email server,” showing several assertions the secretary made about her emails are false. The report also includes an email in which Clinton resists placing her emails in the State Department system because she doesn’t want her personal email becoming “accessible,” an indication the private server was created to protect her by subverting the Freedom of Information Act.

And in a darkly ironic twist, Clinton’s longtime friend Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, who has raised enormous sums for both her and her husband, is now also under investigation by the FBI for potential public corruption stemming from questionable donations from a Chinese billionaire that is also connected to the Clinton Foundation.

The potential for any of this to end Clinton’s White House campaign, while slim, is real. And it clearly fuels Sanders’s hope that a noxious legal cloud will cost Clinton the nomination. What Sanders signals to his voters in the weeks to come could be critical to Clinton’s ability to win them over later. Taking a victory lap now could cost her victory in November. 

Stoddard is an associate editor of The Hill.

Tags Barack Obama Bernie Sanders Donald Trump Hillary Clinton
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