Several weeks ago, Hillary Clinton held a press conference to address her use of a private email for business purposes while serving as Secretary of State. Clinton, who has faced criticism for exclusively using a private email on a secure server instead of using two different accounts, explained that her actions were motivated by convenience: “I wanted one email for convenience purposes… it would have been better for me to use two separate phones and two email accounts.” The former Secretary of State confirmed that no correspondence was hidden from the public record, stating, “I did not email any classified material to anyone,” and has handed 5,000 pages of work-related emails to the State Department to be released to the public. All private emails have since been deleted.
For someone so experienced with scandal and aware of the scrutiny that those holding public office face, Clinton seems foolish for taking this risk. Even before her inevitable presidential bid is announced, Clinton’s candidacy is being scrutinized because of an imprudent and avoidable decision. Despite this, Hillary is still going to run, and she’s still going to be the most viable candidate, and people are going to forget that this even happened.
While the American people have been talking about how this scandal will impact Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign, it will in all likelihood have little long-term effect. Following the press conference, media coverage and national attention significantly decreased. The controversy could overshadow Clinton’s campaign announcement, but it won’t if the campaign waits long enough, which is completely under its control.
Republicans have failed to capitalize on the incident, save Jeb Bush, who was in turn scrutinized for his use of a private email while serving as Governor of Florida. GOP candidates will continue to ignore it during the primaries as they battle each other for the nomination. By the time the general election rolls around, Hillary’s emails will be a distant memory.
Clinton’s release of 5,000 pages of emails makes it difficult to call her secretive; allowing the public to read these emails is an unprecedented act of transparency.
Finally, she faces no formidable opponents: Elizabeth Warren isn’t running, and Martin O’Malley, Jim Webb, and Vice President Biden aren’t nearly as viable as Hillary. Democrats don’t have a Plan B, and will join together to rally behind Clinton.
While scandals can have a huge impact at lower levels – they’ve ruined the political careers of Senators and Congresspeople in the past – they are significantly less meaningful during presidential elections when people are more focused on the candidates’ economic, social, and foreign policies than their personalities. And while the Clinton family may be surrounded by scandal, everyone already knows who Hillary is and won’t change their mind because of this: polls show that 90 percent of Americans have already made up their minds on whether or not they will support her in 2016.
On whether or not she thinks the scandal will affect her presidential bid, Clinton has only said that she “trust[s] the American people to make their decisions about political and public matters” and refused to confirm her campaign.