Going into Tuesday's first Democratic Party Debate, long-term Presidential favourite Hillary Clinton was under serious pressure from insurgent candidate Bernie Sanders and potential rival Joe Biden, just to win her party's nomination. That pressure has receded significantly, says Paul Krishnamurty...
"After a commanding performance in that debate, those worries look more like summer media froth than a guide to her electability. Commentators from across the spectrum awarded her a comfortable victory against four opponents, of whom only Sanders looks capable of making any impact."
While the early election coverage has principally focused on the huge Trump-dominated field for the race to be Republican Nominee, recent news regarding the Democrat contest has been almost relentlessly bad for Hillary Rodham Clinton.
Though hot favourite, rated up to 50% likely to be Next President ever since the market opened, market sentiment about the former First Lady has slipped in response to three problems.
First, the FBI investigation into the ongoing e-mail scandal and plethora of Congressional inquiries regarding that and the Benghazi attack that left four Americans dead. These undoubtably had a negative effect on her ratings.
Second, the dramatic rise of the socialist Senator from Vermont, Bernie Sanders. The 74 year-old has taken the lead in New Hampshire polls, is reducing a huge deficit elsewhere and attracted an impressive $26M in small donations during the last financial quarter.
Third and most significantly, the constant speculation over whether Vice President Joe Biden would run. A popular candidate who could well prove the most electable Democrat option, poised to step in should Clinton's ratings continue to slide. Going into the opening TV debate, Clinton had slipped to 40% for the Presidency, 67% for the Democratic Nomination (down from a peak of 85%.)
However after a commanding performance in that debate, those worries look more like summer media froth than a guide to her electability. Commentators from across the spectrum awarded her a comfortable victory against four opponents, of whom only Sanders looks capable of making any impact.
The biggest cheer of the night came when Sanders said he was fed up of hearing about her 'damn e-mails' and wanted to focus on the big election issues. Unlike the abusive Republican contest, the Democrats are not going to tear lumps out of each other. Fast forward one year and the e-mail scandal will be old news, eclipsed by the economy, immigration, healthcare and race.
Watch Bernie Sanders refuse to score political points out of Clinton's e-mail scandal
By then, voters may well agree with Clinton that the whole thing is just a partisan, Republican attempt to destroy her just as they tried with her husband in the 1990s. It is worth remembering that, despite humiliation and a derailed second term over the Monica Lewinsky scandal, Bill Clinton left office relatively popular.
Sanders didn't completely blow his first chance to engage a nationwide audience. He's credible, enthuses the base, has the radical outsider profile to fit the times and the resources to stay in the race. He'll remain a player and can keep Clinton on her toes.
However there is still little evidence of socialism's nationwide appeal and beating Clinton's well-organised campaign machine is an enormous task. Even Barack Obama's phenomenal, gamechanging candidacy only just beat the Clinton machine in 2008. All the polls suggest Sanders' only real chance would be in a 3-horse race, with Biden splitting the mainstream vote.
After swerving CNN's invitation, left open right up until Tuesday's debate, Biden may have missed his best window. There has always been a feeling that, while the VP remained uncommitted, the drive for him to run stemmed from party elites, nervous during Clinton's bad summer.
She will have calmed the nerves of those strategists and punters holding short odds bets. Her rating has already risen to 43% and I expect it to get higher and stay there, perhaps all the way through to November.