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.
Complicating those efforts is the news that broke midweek: The intelligence community’s inspector general confirmed that dozens 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 the campaign.
Hillary Clinton, for watching history repeat itself, you had the worst week in Washington. Congrats, or something.
Each week, Chris Cillizza awards the worst week in Washington to an inhabitant of Planet Beltway who stands out for all the wrong reasons. You can check out previous winners or e-mail Cillizza with candidates. You can also read more from Outlook and follow our updates on Facebook and Twitter.