And so now one of two things will happen. First, Clinton could keep the FBI at bay and sell the idea that this is all another partisan witch hunt. In this scenario, she scares off additional contestants for a short period of time-say, five weeks-at which point it becomes logistically impossible for someone to wage a serious campaign designed to beat her. If it’s just her, O’Malley, and Sanders in the ring by the end of September, then she’ll slug it out and probably win the nomination in a closer-than-expected fight. That’s one possibility.
The other is that one of the aforementioned big guns does get in, at which point things get interesting. Republican races always pit two basic political factions against one another: the GOP establishment against actual conservatives. Democratic races have three factions: the party’s establishment machine, ideological liberals, and people obsessed with identity politics.
The Democratic establishment isn’t as powerful as its Republican counterpart, but it’s plenty formidable. Howard Dean couldn’t beat it with his ideological liberalism. Barack Obama was able to merge liberalism with identity politics, and he still nearly lost to the establishment machine, winning only because of Clinton’s massive strategic error of not focusing resources on caucus states.