Some Republicans have been musing that Donald Trump's candidacy for the party's presidential nomination is hurting the GOP brand so much that it could only be a stunt concocted by the Clintons. After all, no one benefits more from the Trump circus than the likely Democratic nominee.
Republicans have a particular affinity for conspiracy theories, but the suggestion that Mr. Trump is a Clinton plant did not arise out of the blue. The politically incorrect property mogul supported Hillary Clinton's 2008 run for the White House, donating generously both to it and the Clinton foundation. And the Clintons attended Mr. Trump's 2005 wedding to his third wife.
Then there was the late May phone call between Mr. Trump and former president Bill Clinton, a couple of weeks before he officially entered the Republican race, all while continuing to suggest he could run as an independent if he loses the nomination to the hopelessly "weak" Jeb Bush. A third party candidacy on the right is what clinched the White House for Mr. Clinton in 1992.
It's all likely idle chatter, of course. But Hillary Clinton is suddenly looking like she will need every advantage, natural or man-made, she can muster to ensure her second presidential campaign doesn't implode like the first one. Not only has she failed to inspire the Democratic faithful, she's losing the likeability contest to a grouchy socialist senator who hasn't smiled in decades. She's even trailing Bernie Sanders in New Hampshire, according to one poll last week.
Ms. Clinton is not yet in danger of losing the nomination. Her "inevitability" is what kept other A-list Democratic candidates from running in the first place. And for all of the speculation about a late entry into the race by Vice-President Joe Biden, or, God help us, Al Gore, inertia and a sense of entitlement have given Ms. Clinton a forbidding head start in money and organization.
Yet, this is precisely what has so many Democrats worried. "The combination of messy facts, messy campaign operation and an awkward candidate reading terrible lines or worse jokes from a prompter is very scary," one senior party operative told The Washington Post this week.
The "messy facts" refer to the controversy surrounding Ms. Clinton's handling of her e-mails when she served as secretary of state during President Barack Obama's first term. Her decision to use a private server and e-mail account, rather than government computers, has revived old narratives about the Clintons as ultra-secretive control-freaks who only look out for themselves.
At issue is whether Ms. Clinton compromised national security by storing classified information elsewhere than on government servers. She has insisted she never sent or received e-mails "marked as classified" using her private account. She initially refused to turn over her server to authorities, instead handing over printed copies of 30,000 "work-related" e-mails.
After reviewing a fraction of that correspondence, the State Department said in a Monday court filing that intelligence officials have already flagged 305 e-mails for further review since they contained potentially classified data. A top official overseeing the review last week told Congress that four of 40 e-mails his investigators reviewed contained classified information; two of them had information that was considered "top secret."
Ms. Clinton finally agreed last week to hand over her server to the Federal Bureau of Investigation. She admitted deleting 30,000 or so e-mails that she deemed personal. But experts expect the F.B.I. can retrieve them, raising the likelihood of more embarrassing revelations for the Democratic frontrunner. Her irritation toward reporters is overshadowing her talking points. And her carefully parsed answers recall the siege mentality she exhibited in past Clinton scandals from Whitewater to Travelgate.
This is scuttling her attempts to re-introduce herself to Americans as a friendly grandmother out to fight for the middle-class and minorities against the rich and powerful. Mind you, that persona was always going to be a tough sell, given the $10-million (U.S.) she pocketed in 2013 alone for speeches to the same rich and powerful types she is now vilifying on the campaign trail. In 2013, she and her husband made separate speeches at Goldman Sachs within two days of other. Ms. Clinton gave two more private talks at the investment bank that year, earning $675,000.
Clinton plant or not, Trumpmania may be the best thing Hillary's got going right now.