The single biggest threat to Hillary Clinton's chances of being elected president next November -- more so than any one running against her in the Democratic primary or even her future Republican general election opponent -- is a sense among the electorate that the bad of putting another Clinton in office outweighs the good.
What Clinton cannot have -- if she wants to win -- is lots of voters saying some variant of this: "I like her and I think she'd probably be a good president. But, I just don't want to go through all of that stuff again." Which is why today is a not-at-all-good day for Clinton's presidential hopes.
There's this from the New York Times: "Cash Flowed to Clinton Foundation as Russians Pressed for Control of Uranium Company."
This from the Post: "For Clintons, speech income shows how their wealth is intertwined with charity."
And this from Politico: "Hillary Clinton struggles to contain media barrage on foreign cash."
None of these stories are disastrous for Clinton's campaign. Of the three, the Times piece is the most problematic because it draws direct connections between State Department recommendations regarding Russia and donations from aligned business interests to the Clinton Foundation. This paragraph, in particular, is a tough one for Clinton:
As the Russians gradually assumed control of Uranium One in three separate transactions from 2009 to 2013, Canadian records show, a flow of cash made its way to the Clinton Foundation. Uranium One’s chairman used his family foundation to make four donations totaling $2.35 million. Those contributions were not publicly disclosed by the Clintons, despite an agreement Mrs. Clinton had struck with the Obama White House to publicly identify all donors. Other people with ties to the company made donations as well.
The Post story -- by the terrific Roz Helderman -- provides a much more detailed breakdown of the family's finances than has previously appeared elsewhere -- including the fact that Bill Clinton was paid $26 million in speech fees "by companies and organizations that are also major donors to the foundation he created after leaving the White House."
Again, not great for the Clintons but also no silver bullet contained therein that would derail her campaign.
But, in terms of raising the "I don't know if I want to go through all of this again" sentiment among average people, this collection of stories is just terrible. It reminds them -- or, if it doesn't remind them yet, it will -- of all the things in the 1990s that they didn't like and certainly don't want to go through again. Obviously the top of the mind issue there is Monica Lewinsky but there's Whitewater, the travel office, the Buddhist monks -- and so and so forth.
"It's the Clinton way: raking in millions from foreign governments behind closed doors while making promises about transparency that they never intended to keep," said Carly Fiorina, one of the 20 (or so) people likely to run for president on the Republican side. "Have we had enough of a ruling political class that doles out favors to the wealthy and well connected few?"
Republicans would be wise to follow Fiorina's example as they strategize the best way to effectively attack Clinton in the campaign to come. While hitting her on her resume or readiness for the office is a loser with the American public, raising questions about her honesty is far more fertile soil.
Check out the new Quinnipiac University national poll. More than six in ten (62 percent) of voters said Clinton has "strong leadership qualities." In that same sample, however, less than four in ten (38 percent) said that Clinton was honest and trustworthy. A majority (54 percent) said she's not honest and trustworthy, including 61 percent of independents.
That's a remarkable set of findings -- and speaks to the divided mind the public has about the Clintons broadly and Hillary Clinton specifically. There's a widespread belief in her capability to do the job she is running for. There's also widespread distrust in her personally. People admire her but don't know if she's honest.
And that is the central problem for Clinton with this series of stories today. It affirms for people that there is always some piece -- or pieces -- of baggage that come with electing the Clintons to anything. It's part of the deal. You don't get one without the other.
Make no mistake: Forcing people to decide whether Clinton's readiness for the job outweighs the fact that it's always something with these people is not the choice the Clinton team wants on the ballot in November 2016.