The Hillary Clinton email scandal is setting off alarm bells within the Democratic Party that should the former secretary of state take a major stumble, there is no understudy waiting in the wings.
Clinton's performance this week at a news conference — which took more than a week to take place — to defend her decision to forgo a government email account, in lieu of a private server run out of her home, also demonstrated that her presumed presidential campaign has "a long way to go until their organization is ready for prime time," as one unnamed Democratic ally told The Washington Post
When the scandal broke, Clinton supporters were met with silence as they waited anxiously for talking points to defend her, the Post reported.
The controversy evoked memories of the 1990s and the scandal-plagued Bill Clinton White House years, according to The Wall Street Journal
, something Democrats do not wish to relive.
Boyd Brown, a South Carolina member of the Democratic National Committee, told the Journal that he found Clinton's response to the email uproar "flip, arrogant and I think at the end of the day it underlines the fact that she lives in this world where she is going to call her own shots and live by her own rules."
It hurts the party going forward, he added.
"What do Democratic primary voters want to do now: Do they want to subject themselves to this, or do they want to look at alternatives?" asked Brown. "I'm already tired of talking about Hillary Clinton, and she hasn't even announced yet."
There are few current options if Clinton doesn't run, since "the power and reach of the Clinton network has so overshadowed everyone else that prospective rivals have virtually disappeared," according to the Post.
Former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley has expressed an interest as has Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders. The progressive wing of the party wants Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, though she has repeatedly insisted she's not interested.
Vice President Joe Biden also hasn't made a decision, though according to the Post, the 72-year-old "is of an age and wise enough to know what the odds are of taking on Clinton even as a sitting vice president."
Post writer Dan Balz says that instead of promoting herself as "a candidate of the future," the email flap finds Clinton "trapped in a rerun of the past."
The scandal won't disappear overnight, according to Balz, but attention spans in the Internet age are short and controversies tend to "come and go quickly."
"What presents the greater risk is that the lasting effect is not the question of whether she violated federal regulations or guidelines, but rather that voters simply grow tired
of all the drama and wonder whether a Clinton presidency would mean another four or eight years of it," he said.
Worried Democrats fear the cumulative impact of the Benghazi investigation, repeated hammering by Clinton's Republican adversaries, aggressive media, flashbacks to the 1990 scandals and, now, the email controversy will give staying power to the narrative that Clinton is secretive and untrustworthy.
Some Democrats told the Post that they fear Clinton comes across as "coy or cynical by repeatedly insisting she has not made a decision to run for president," despite hiring staffers across the country and acting like a candidate in every way.
"Democrats are really worried about her," New York-based strategist Hank Sheinkopf told the Post. "They want to be sure that she can win. They're not used to this anxiety, because they've had eight years of winners."
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