Hillary Clinton can be beaten in the 2016 Democratic primaries by only one candidate, and one candidate only - Hillary Clinton.
In the general election, while that is less true, it is still mainly true. Everything is in place for Clinton to become the first woman president of the United States of America.
That’s just a realistic assessment of where things stand today. (For the record, I’m personally really intrigued by Rand Paul on the Republican side.) In 2008, the media didn’t anticipate Barack Obama. He was written off early as being too young, too wet behind the ears.
The media didn’t notice that Obama had caught lightning in a bottle, as well as put together a campaign that was light years ahead of everyone else’s, as far as the technical aspects that made the difference.
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In addition to that, Obama was a fresh face and reflective of our changing demographics. He was on the right side of the Iraq issue in a war-weary nation. His party did not hold the White House when the worst financial crash since the Great Depression hit. He was a gifted speaker who could mesmerize crowds.
All of those factors helped him win the White House in 2008 - and still he barely beat Clinton that year. That’s the part many in the media seem to be overlooking. Obama was essentially the perfect candidate at the perfect time, and he still had to sweat until the end of the primary season to defeat her.
Because she ultimately lost, the political media seems to focus on that aspect of the story while forgetting how much money she raised, how many primaries she won, how many votes she garnered, about 18 million. Those are not small things.
In 2016, there will be no Obama in her way. There is no one who is in position to do what he did in ‘08. That’s why it is clear to anyone paying attention that while Obama won the ‘08 primary, no Democrat other than Clinton can win it next year. She can lose it - but it would be through a series of self-inflicted wounds.
Of course, that’s entirely possible. She’s already made one big mistake, with her handling of email while she was secretary of state. It’s a bit stunning how no one in her corner could anticipate the problems associated with that. And she could make more mistakes. But they would have to be massive and more newsworthy than ‘email-gate.’
The Democratic nomination is hers to lose. We shouldn’t pretend otherwise.
In the general election, things are also set up for her. Demographic changes will be even more important than they were in ‘08. Gone are the days when 88 percent of the electorate was white - the years Reagan won in landslides. The electorate is more diverse, and that, from a strictly numbers point-of-view, has been in favor of Democrats.
Clinton doesn’t have to win a majority of the self-identified independents. She just has to get enough.
And because it is a presidential election, the “Obama coalition” is much more likely to make it to the polls, which isn’t the case during off-year elections.
Clinton’s resume, no matter if you love or hate her, is robust. She is conversant on domestic and foreign policy. She’s been a U.S. senator, secretary of state and First Lady. No other candidate, on either side of the aisle, can out “experience” her.
And then there is her potential to make history. While that aspect of her story seems to also be underplayed in the political press, it will loom largely the closer we get to next November.
It still matters that the U.S. has never had a woman president. It’s not because only men have been qualified to hold that post. It’s because throughout this country’s history, women have been pushed to the sidelines when it comes to the most influential and important posts - despite their resumes and other qualifications.
Only the hyper-partisan could deny that Clinton’s credentials are long and impressive. You don’t have to agree with anything she says or anything she’s ever done to understand that truth.
Despite her flaws - and she has baggage like every other candidate - despite the outsized hate she will receive from some quarters and the lukewarm acceptance she’ll receive from others, Clinton is the candidate to beat, whether anyone likes it or not. She’s to politics what Tiger Woods was to golf a decade ago. If you were a betting person, it was always wiser to take Tiger versus the field.
It didn’t mean he’d win every event, but it meant that when he was on his game, or even almost on his game, victory was his.
That’s where Clinton is in the run up to the 2016 elections. We’ll have to wait and see if she can sink the tough-to-read putt under pressure the way Tiger used to.