Second, Clinton will likely benefit from serious competition. Anyone who has followed or played a competitive sport is familiar with the tendency of teams or players to play down to the level of their competition. Weak competition throws you off your game because the rhythm of the game is different, the strategies a weak opponent employs are different from those of a strong opponent, and weak opponents just do things a strong opponent would never do, out of necessity. A weaker opponent’s sloppiness makes you sloppy.
I think this has been affecting Clinton to a certain degree. Her press conferences and media events have been soft, as was her campaign rollout. She’s had an eight-year hiatus from elective politics, and she’s eight years older. At a certain point, that matters (compare John McCain in 2000 to John McCain in 2008). She needs someone to force her to step up her game.
We’ve seen this happen before with Clinton in particular. People forget that while there were serious weaknesses in her 2008 campaign, the proximate cause of her decline was a terrible debate performance. But by the end of her matchup with Barack Obama, she was by most accounts a vastly improved candidate. She would be much better served by having the dust knocked off of her in the Democratic primary than in the general election.