For Hillary Clinton, it's starting to look like deja vu all over again.
Start a bid for the Democratic presidential nomination as giant front-runner. Check. Raise tens of millions of dollars and look unbeatable for large swaths of the year before the primaries start. Check. An insurgent challenger running to her ideological left? Check. Collapsing poll numbers on the eve of actual votes? Check.
Over the past week or so, Clinton has watched as her national polling lead over Sen. Bernie Sanders, Vt., a self-avowed socialist, has shrunk. And, far more important, Clinton's standing vis a vis Sanders in the key early-voting states of Iowa and New Hampshire has eroded as well.
In Iowa, after holding a high-single-digit lead (at worst) for months, Clinton now finds herself in a dead heat with the caucuses just over a week away. The Real Clear Politics polling average gives Clinton an edge of less than five points.
Sanders has always run stronger in New Hampshire than in Iowa, but of late several polls suggest that he is widening his steady lead over the former secretary of state. In the Real Clear Politics polling average, Sanders is up by almost 13 points.
Lose both of those states early next month, and Clinton's inevitability bubble bursts. Period.
Clinton, to her credit, is doing everything she can to avoid a repeat of 2008. She's savaging Sanders as both too conservative (on guns) and too pie-in-the-sky liberal (on health care).
Complicating those efforts is the news that broke midweek: The intelligence community's inspector general confirmed thatdozens of emails on the private server Clinton used while she was at the State Department contained extremely highly classified information.
Clinton continues to stick by her original line on the email controversy - that she never sent or received anything that was classified at the time - but the latest news is proof that the story and its reverberations are likely to dog her all the way through November.
Hillary Clinton, for watching history repeat itself, you had the worst week in Washington. Congrats, or something.
• 01/18/16: Feeling bad for Jeb Bush
• 01/15/16: Winners and losers from the sixth Republican presidential debate
• 01/12/16: Here's exactly how Bernie Sanders can beat Hillary Clinton
• 01/11/16:The fantasy scenario that could become reality for Hillary
• 12/30/15: The five big lessons from a weirdly watchable year of politics
• 12/21/15: Winners and losers in the third Democratic presidential debate
• 12/16/15: Winners and losers from the 5th Republican presidential debate
• 12/16/15: Cruz, not Trump, looking like GOP favorite for 2016
• 12/04/15: Ted Cruz is the sleeping giant in the Republican race
• 11/24/15:Trump is leading an increasingly fact-free 2016 campaign
• 11/23/15: A ranking of GOP presidential candidates who can still make a case --- and the nominee
• 11/16/15: The remarkably unappealing anger of Donald Trump
• 11/11/15: Winners and losers from the fourth Republican debate
• 11/02/15: Jeb Bush says he still doesn't get why his terrible debate performance matters so much
• 10/29/15: Winners and losers from the third Republican presidential debate
• 10/22/15: Paul Ryan might be saving his party. But at what cost?
• 10/20/15: Six things we know Joe Biden is thinking
• 10/19/15: Who had the worst week in Washington? Lincoln Chafee
• 10/14/15: Winners and losers from the first Dem presidential debate