“Most voters think Hillary Clinton will be the next president of the United States even though they have very mixed feelings about her,” notes a Rasmussen Reports poll released Wednesday – which has some of those proverbial read ‘em and weep numbers for Republicans to consider.

57 percent of likely U.S. Voters believe Clinton is likely to be elected president, including 23 percent who say it is very likely, the poll found. They are evenly divided about Mrs. Clinton: 47 percent view her favorably, while another 47 percent share an unfavorable opinion.

“But when it comes to strong feelings, the unfavorables still win out. While 22 percent have a very favorable view of Clinton, 36 percent regard her very unfavorably,” the findings say.

The truth is that a general election win by Clinton — she’s very likely to become the Democratic nominee — is roughly a 50/50 proposition. And we’re not likely to learn a lot over the rest of 2015 to change that…

Clinton’s ratings are down sharply from her tenure as Secretary of State. However, as we’ve been warning Democrats for a long time, a lot of this was predictable. Clinton’s numbers have often been about break-even when she’s been a highly partisan figure — during the early stages of the 2008 campaign, for example — and better only when she’s been above the fray of day-to-day partisan politics…

Clinton is so well-known, in fact, that it’s almost as if voters are dispensing with all the formalities and evaluating her as they might when she’s on the ballot next November. About half of them would like to see her become president and about half of them wouldn’t. Get ready for an extremely competitive election.

According to Hatalsky, while Bush was “too hot” and Obama was “too cool,” the swing voters seemed to think Clinton was “just right.” It turns out that the former secretary of State has her own brand on national security not synonymous with the Democratic brand. Participants described her as “more experienced,” “quicker to make decisions” and more confident than Obama. And compared with Democrats overall, Clinton is viewed as more hawkish and authoritative.

This won’t stop Republicans from insisting Clinton lacks foreign policy credentials because of what they view as her lackluster term at the State Department. The GOP should be careful: In a world where a former secretary of State lacks the requisite foreign policy experience to lead the country, no one in the GOP field is qualified to be president.

Hillary Clinton is going to be 69 on Election Day 2016, (very slightly) younger than Ronald Reagan was when he was elected. We can argue that this is not fair, but fair or not, it’s going to matter. Her opponent — any opponent — is going to look young and vigorous next to her. And I suspect that it matters more for a woman than for a man. If you think that discrimination against older workers is real, you have to think this is going to be a factor.  

Her age is a risk for another reason: People in their late 60s and early 70s are vulnerable to health events. Now, calm down, I’m not saying that Clinton is likely to die on the trail; I’m sure she has top-notch doctors and her life expectancy is, I am pleased to say, at least another 15 years. But say she has a burst appendix, as happened to my mother at that age; she’ll be off the campaign trail for a minimum of a month. And a burst appendix is only one of the many non-life-threatening things that hit older people harder than the young, from pneumonia to shingles. Obviously, these things could happen to any candidate, but they are more likely to happen to Clinton than to her opponent. And if one does, it will not only hurt her campaigning, but it will also plant questions in voters’ minds about her physical ability to do the job.

There is, of course, a possibility that she could drive turnout among older voters. But I’m sort of skeptical. My mother, aka the Swing Voter, says she knows she would no longer have the physical stamina to be president, and that actually biases her against Clinton. I’ve heard the same from several other 70+ folks.

It’s true that Clinton has lost the only tough election she’s faced. But people forget that she actually got more votes than Obama in the Democratic primaries. And as for her gifts as a politician, while it’s true that she’s not especially charismatic or intuitive, I think it’s also undeniably true that she’s tough, gutsy, and adaptable.

I spent a good part of the winter of 2008 following Clinton and Obama across the country, and it’s easy to forget how strong the headwinds were against her. By January Obama had the money, the establishment, and the media all on his side. After Iowa, Hillary was forced to reinvent herself as a populist underdog, and she did so with remarkable effectiveness. She kept fighting and coming back from the dead…

And again — this bears repeating — she crossed the finish line with more votes than Obama.

Hillary Clinton isn’t a natural. But she’s a grinder and she’s tough. You disrespect her grit at your own peril.

This isn’t to say that she’s inevitable. Her candidacy does present exploitable weaknesses for a bold opponent. But she’s going to be trickier to attack than you might think.

Obama was indeed a rare talent, but his skill alone wasn’t what cinched the nomination. Clinton blew a winnable race, despite having had almost every conceivable advantage. Oddly, the one thing she truly lacked was the very thing she chose to present as her primary qualification for the presidency: executive leadership skills. As Clinton often declared, in an obvious dig at Obama’s inexperience, she alone had the capacity to “do the job from Day One.” Yet whatever management skills Clinton may possess, she didn’t deploy in 2008…

Meanwhile, the Clinton campaign so badly mismanaged its finances that it lacked the resources to compete, even after the candidate made a personal loan of $5 million. From the outset, she seemed to operate from the premise that the Clinton brand was invincible, which bred complacency and left her vulnerable to a nimble challenger. In fact, Clinton’s downfall was not so different from that of General Motors, another storied American brand sliding toward bankruptcy that summer due to mismanagement…

The danger for Democrats, then, is that Clinton won’t come under any real pressure until next summer, when she faces the Republican nominee. No one knows whether she’ll be able to guide her campaign through adversity or whether she’ll again be the agent of her own undoing. Does CEO Clinton really exist or not?

All the careful planning and creative imagery—the upbeat video, the Iowa road trip—intended to distinguish Clinton from the candidate who ran last time, won’t matter if she hasn’t realized that her own shortcomings are what doomed her. In the end, she’s the only one with plausible authority to direct her own campaign. And the best way to assert control of her new operation would be for her to develop what was so sorely missing last time—a clear, overarching justification for her candidacy.

[I]nterviews with GOP consultants, party officials and the largest conservative super PACs point to an emerging narrative of a wealthy, out-of-touch candidate who plays by her own set of rules and lives in a world of private planes, chauffeured vehicles and million-dollar homes.

The out-of-touch plutocrat template is a familiar one: Democrats used it to devastating effect against Republican Mitt Romney in 2012. While Hillary Clinton’s residences in New York and Washington may not have car elevators, there’s still a lengthy trail of paid speeches, tone-deaf statements about the family finances and questions about Clinton family foundation fundraising practices that will serve as cornerstones of the anti-Clinton messaging effort.

“She’s admitted she hasn’t driven a car for decades; she probably doesn’t ever go into a coffee shop and talk to regular people unless it’s for a staged photo-op,” said American Crossroads CEO Steven Law, alluding to Clinton’s portrayal in her campaign’s launch video on Sunday. “She really has lived the life of a 1-percenter these last several years, and it shows.

Our constitutionally mandated Electoral College has evolved to a point where it is slanted in favor of the Democratic party’s nominee. If Hillary is indeed the 2016 Democratic nominee, all she has to do to win the necessary 270 electoral votes is sustain the historic equation outlined in my November National Review piece “Breaking the Blue Barrier.” That equation is: 1992 + 1988 + Florida = a Democrat in the White House.

That first number represents the ten states with a total of 152 electoral votes that have been won by every Democratic presidential nominee since 1992. The second number represents the nine states with a total of 90 electoral votes that have been won by every Democratic presidential nominee since 1988. Together, those states command 242 electoral votes.

Thus, if Hillary follows the Electoral College precedent that has held since 1992 and also wins Florida, with its 29 electoral votes (or any combination of states yielding 28 votes), Bill Clinton would be elected First Dude. (Mothers, hide your daughters!)

Florida, need I remind you, was won by Obama, though by small margins, in both 2008 and 2012, ensuring that in 2016 Mrs. Clinton will become a de facto resident of the Sunshine State.

Republicans know—they see it every day—that Republican candidates get grilled, sometimes impertinently, and pressed, sometimes brusquely. And it isn’t true that they’re only questioned in this way once they announce, Scott Walker has been treated like this also, and he has yet to announce. Republicans see this, and then they see that Mrs. Clinton isn’t grilled, is never forced to submit to anyone’s morning-show impertinence, is never the object of the snotty question or the sharp demand for information. She gets the glide. She waves at the crowds and the press and glides by. No one pushes. No one shouts the rude question or rolls out the carefully scripted set of studio inquiries meant to make the candidate squirm. She is treated like the queen of England, who also isn’t subjected to impertinent questions as she glides into and out of venues. But she is the queen. We are not supposed to have queens…

On the Democratic side we have Mrs. Clinton, gliding. If she has no serious competition, will the singularity of her situation make her look stable, worthy of reflexive respect, accomplished, serene, the obvious superior choice? Or will Hillary alone on the stage, or the couch, or in the tinted-window SUV, look entitled, presumptuous, old, boring, imperious, yesterday?

Hillary knows that, for now, she remains on the pinnacle because she has the protection of the press. The same mainstream media that huffed about “anti-Clinton” donors in 2006 is already in position; they’re already questioning private citizens who dare to have incorrect opinions, ones that might be deemed “anti-Clintite”.

But Hillary also knows something she didn’t know in 2008: should the opportunity present itself, the press will throw her over in a heartbeat for a lighter, more graceful candidate — one with a more compelling story and less historical bulk to deal with. They did it once before. Compared to the Slog of Hillary, Candidate Obama was featherlight on their shoulders, on their way to the top.

Here’s the truth: If the press took all of the stories and untruths and scandals attached to Hillary and then pretended that she was a Republican — and reacted accordingly — Hillary would be over and done, and planning tea parties with Baby Charlotte, right now. But she is a Democrat and the party bench is very thin — and, to be cheeky, there is no strong gay candidate whose presidency would be equally as “historic” — so Hillary is getting a monumental pass, and she has to know that, too.

Which is why she is being so very careful, and so very still and empty, as she holds to her spot at the top.

Clinton embodies all the things Democrats supposedly reject. But she’s got money and powerful allies in politics, the media and K Street — and for these reasons, Democratic voters appear ready to settle for her.

Remember back in the heady days of 2006, when the progressive “Netroots” provided a crucial boost for the Democrats to take control of the House and the Senate, and also set the stage for wins in 2008? Lofty ideals motivated the base and the party back then: good government, progressive goals, elevating grassroots over the establishment and the business lobby. If they choose Hillary Clinton in 2016, Democratic voters are openly discarding those ideals…

It’s not just that Hillary falls short of the Left’s ideals — it is that these shortcomings are precisely what make her the presumptive frontrunner now. She is on a glide-path to the nomination because of her prowess in corporate fundraising, her decades-long proximity to power and the support she enjoys from the lobbyist-political complex.

The Democratic recovery that has brought such tremendous gains to Wall Street and has made income inequality more profound was inaugurated under a president who beat Hillary Clinton in 2008 by being more progressive and more critical of Wall Street than she was.

It would be more natural if Clinton was president for eight years, had accomplished some form of health-care reform, and was delivering an economic recovery to an incoming Obama administration, which had the mission to make America’s gains more equitable. That’s not the case…

But running as a woman isn’t enough. Clinton has to execute a difficult maneuver. She must draw on nostalgia for the 1990s, when broad economic gains seemed to be more equitably shared, while still coming across as her own woman and not as a retread of her husband’s presidency. On top of this, she has to avoid becoming the Bob Dole of the race, a candidate who pines for the good ol’ days. That would be especially disastrous against a candidate like Marco Rubio, whose youth and ethnicity can’t help but evoke America’s future…

Clinton is not a good fit for the 2016 race. She’s a candidate associated with the past, leading the party that is demographically more like America’s future. She’s a candidate of the wine-and-brie set of her party, in a post-Occupy America that is crying out for a more equitable social contract. She’s the candidate that you settle on after Obama, in an era when Democrats are quietly upset that Obama himself seems to have settled for something less than his best self.

Here’s the Clinton paradox: The prospect of electing the first female president has always been a stronger selling point for Clinton’s campaign than the reality of Hillary Clinton and her political skills. But to disabuse voters of the notion that she views the primary campaign as a formality, she’ll need to showcase the weakest part of her repertoire. Meanwhile, she’s relying on a similar message and approach as Obama even as clear majorities of voters are looking for a change.

Clinton got the preparation for a presidential campaign backwards: She prepared for her kickoff by assembling an all-star team of talent, rallying support for her candidacy among Democrats, while remaining largely invisible to voters save for a handful of paid, scheduled speeches. Her cross-country tour looks a bit too staged, even using the same “Scooby” van that she employed during her 2000 New York Senate campaign.

She should have started her listening tour before announcing her campaign and maybe, you know, done some actual listening before deciding to run.

There are perfectly legitimate reasons to feel antipathetic toward her and her candidacy. She’s a Clinton, she’s hawkish, she’s inauthentic, she’s a centrist, her ties with Wall Street are far too tight, she didn’t condemn her husband’s infidelities as sexual harassment. But what is simultaneously true is that she became a politician in the context of having lived her life as an anomaly: She has climbed first and higher than any other within the nation’s most exclusively male power structure, a trajectory especially likely to shape a woman born at a time at which the only plausible path toward political—let alone presidential—power was through marriage, and then through convincing millions of people that she is not too liberal, too feminine, or too castrating…

Among the most worrying things about Hillary Clinton not facing a serious primary challenge from within her party is that in the almost three decades she’s been in the national eye, a distinct pattern has emerged: Americans love her when she is vulnerable and scrappy and loathe her when she is powerful and coasting. This speaks to some depressing truths about our national tastes in women—they appeal to us most when they are the least threatening—but also to Hillary’s own instincts and behaviors. She is at her worst—too careful, too canned—when she feels she has something to lose, and at her rousing best when she feels she’s got nothing to lose. Recall that she reached the most appealing rhetorical heights of her career in a moment of defeat. From now on, she observed in her concession speech, “it will be unremarkable for a woman to win primary state victories, unremarkable to have a woman in a close race to be our nominee, unremarkable to think that a woman can be the president of the United States.”…

It also matters very much—far too much, I fear—to women, and the story of their political progress in the United States, whether or not that president is Hillary Clinton. I have written before that I wished other Democratic women would run against her; I still wish that. I wish she were not still the first and only; I wish she hadn’t come to mean so much; I wish she didn’t carry such a terrible symbolic load. But here we are, facing the risk—particular both to Hillary’s own weaknesses and to the pattern of American presidential power that has so far cleared room only for her—that she could lose. And if she does, that loss will mean far more than it ever should. 

Hillary Clinton likes to paint herself as the victim. When her husband was embroiled in a scandal involving lying in a sexual harassment suit, she developed a theory about a “vast right-wing conspiracy” that sought to undermine him. As much as we all love good conspiracy theories, this one failed to explain how, exactly, the aforementioned group had tricked the president into lying under oath.

Sometimes, however, claiming victim status works well for her. When she cried during a campaign stop in New Hampshire in 2008, Clinton briefly turned around her political prospects there. The (new) New Republic noted that “Americans love her when she is vulnerable and scrappy and loathe her when she is powerful and coasting.”

Get ready for lots of vulnerable Hillary and downplaying of dynasty Hillary.

What is then left? Actually one motif.

Hillary is both a victim and trailblazer. Her disastrous record of unethical and illegal activities — shaking down foreigners for donations to her foundation while secretary of State, creating her exclusive server for a private email account, destroying all her emails after admitting that she was judge and jury of what were and were not government records — is instead proof of right-wing McCarthyism.

Those who attack her are afraid of a woman president and what she represents — an inclusive social agenda that protects gays, women, and minorities from right-wing hooliganism and religious bigotry,  fire-and-brimstone anti-abortionists who want entrance into our bedrooms and to erect glass ceilings to thwart feminists, reincarnations of Bull Connors and Lester Maddoxes who would put blacks back in chains, nativists and restrictionists who hide their racism by faux calls for border enforcement, and greedy speculators and stock manipulators who care little for the 99%.

That is Hillary Clinton’s past, present, and future. There is nothing more. No record — ever — of success, no innate charm, eloquence, brilliance,  or campaign savviness. And given her iconic female candidacy, her turn, her money — and the lack of an alternative — Hillary Clinton needs no agenda, whether a past one to defend or a future one to rally to.