Hillary Clinton is the all-but-certain nominee for the Democrats

Only in the 21st Century, with the news cycle reduced from days through hours to minutes, could a woman who twice won election from a state larger than that of all her primary opponents – combined – be considered unlikely to run roughshod over them. Yet somehow, it was perceived that Hillary Clinton would not win last night’s debate. Even some of her backers fell for it (More Perfect Union – and yes, that is yours truly, around 37.5 minutes in, declaring that last night would be the last important debate for the Democrats).

So, now that we know (again) that Bernie Sanders is no real threat – let alone the last Republican US Senator Rhode Island ever had, Ronald Reagan’s Navy Secretary, and a guy who ran Maryland so poorly his constituents chose a Republican over his own LTG to replace him. Ironically, as the former Secretary of State firmed up her position within the Democrats, she made her general election position weaker – probably at the exact same moment last night.

That would be when Sanders declared that no one cared about Mrs. Clinton’s email issue. Nationally, he may be right (and among Democrats, he certainly is), but one of the few exceptions to the rule is Democrats’ last line of Electoral Collage defense: here in Virginia.

For the Republican nominee to defeat Mrs. Clinton, (s)he must carry all of the states won by Mitt Romney in 2012, plus four others: Colorado, Ohio, Florida, and Virginia. Alone among these states, Virginia has seen a shift towards the Democrats in local elections, rather than away from them. One of those local victors – Governor Terry McAuliffe – is sure to pull out every stop to carry the Old Dominion for his old friend.

Unfortunately for the Democrats, Virginia is also one of two states where federal employees and contractors have a heavy impact – exactly the kind of people who know darn well how serious the email issue is. Granted, much of the federal civil service leans heavily to Clinton’s party anyhow, but that is far less true of the national security civil servants, and the contractors. These two groups have more swing voters – and are relatively more prevalent in Virginia than in Maryland.

Assuming the Republican nominee can capitalize on local successes in the other three states (and I’ll admit, this is not assured), the election could very well come down to Virginia – and the rare group of voters who most certainly do care about email security as an issue per se (rather than just as part of the larger issue of trust).

At this point, one would still say (regretfully, in my case) that the nominee for the Democrats is the general election favorite. Last night made it abundantly clear: that nominee is Hillary Clinton. Whether she can transition from favorite to winner in November remains to be seen.

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