The past few weeks have seen two developments that, in combination, could pose big problems for Hillary Clinton en route to her coronation as the nominee of the Democratic Party.
First the emergence of Bernie Sanders as the darling of the left makes the Democratic primaries competitive. While Sanders is not as endowed by quasi-corrupt money as is Hillary, he still raised $15 million in the last quarter 87 percent of it from donors who gave $250 or less. That's not as much as Hillary's $45 million, but it is enough to battle and move ahead.
Sanders has been drawing big and enthusiastic crowds wherever he goes. Even in tiny towns like Council Bluffs, Iowa, (population 65,000) he drew 2,500 cheering supporters to his rally. By contrast, Hillary is flat and remote on the campaign trail and displays all the caution that traditionally derails over-confident front runners.
Sanders happily and willingly engages the media while Hillary literally ropes them off like cattle as she marches in parades and shakes hands. Her optics are terrible.
And it's having an effect. In New Hampshire, the CNN/MUR poll has her ahead by only 43-38 percent. Once she was ahead by more than 35 points, and now her lead in the Granite State is down to single digits. In Iowa, the story is the same. The Quinnipiac Poll has Hillary ahead by only 52-33, having led by 57-16 in the Des Moines Register poll on May 28-29.
It is now very possible that Hillary will lose both of the early primary and caucus states Iowa and New Hampshire.
But the news gets worse for Hillary. It looks more and more like Vice President Joe Biden might enter the race. One of Obama's top bundlers, Jon Cooper, is now heading a Draft Biden Committee and recently said, "I'm as convinced as I can be that Joe Biden will be entering the presidential race." Cooper says he bases his assessment on signals from Biden's inner circle.
Without belittling the excellent journalistic work of writers like Ed Klein (author of "Blood Feud: The Clintons vs. The Obamas") and Peter Schweizer ("Clinton Cash"), a lot of the sources these two authors tapped are reported to be in the Obama inner circle. Their purpose in dishing dirt on Hillary: To deny her the nomination. Reportedly, top Obama aide Valerie Jarrett and Michelle herself are worried that the triangulating Hillary may not keep faith with the president's left-wing agenda and are searching for alternatives. Sanders' surge could well lead to a Biden candidacy.
As Sanders gains momentum and Hillary loses vote share, there is likely to be increasing panic among Democratic leaders that Sanders might win the nomination. Indeed, they will face a choice of nominating Hillary, who has fallen in public esteem to the point where Sanders is a threat, and Bernie, whose left-wing agenda is way too far out for the country to swallow.
Democratic honchos and donors won't want to back a candidate who is hobbled by the constant, month by month release of embarrassing emails. Nor will they want to defend a nominee who wants a 90 percent top tax bracket and supports lowering the retirement age for Social Security.
Joe Biden could offer an alternative that all could live with.
Remember the saga of Howard Dean in 2004? The Vermont governor signed a bill allowing gay marriage and, as a result, surged in Iowa and threatened to overtake the two front runners for the Democratic nomination Sens. John Kerry and John Edwards. At the time gay marriage was such a hot potato that nobody would touch it, and few believed that an advocate could get elected president. So the two titular leaders of the Democratic Party back then, Sen. Ted Kennedy and former President Bill Clinton, teamed up to take Dean down. They attacked him fiercely and warned that he would doom the party to defeat and guarantee Bush a second term.
Dean wilted in the limelight and self-destructed under the pressure, capping one press conference with a wail-like scream that evidenced his helpless frustration as he saw his candidacy dissolve in smoke. Kerry went on to win the nomination.
Look for a similar effort to undercut Bernie Sanders. But Hillary Clinton is not the virgin that John Kerry was in 2004. Kerry had no negatives then. His doctoring of his war record was not known, and he had widely positive ratings.
But now, the effort to stop Sanders cannot look back to Hillary Clinton and try to persuade those who have abandoned her to return. That boat has sailed. Joe Biden offers a new alternative that could distract voters from Hillary and save the party from Sanders.
Loyal to the administration, an object of sympathy after the death of his son Beau, and a faithful liberal, Biden could look better and better.
The point is that the one-two punch of Sanders and Biden could well bring Hillary Clinton down and doom her chances for the nomination.
We must not expect Hillary to collapse in a day or a week or a month. But the constant hammering she is taking, the monthly release of compromising emails, the onset of the Benghazi hearings and her own inability to answer charges or to campaign effectively while the questions linger all are bringing her down.
Slowly but surely.