In 2013, The Washington Post's Chris Cillizza posed a question: "If not Hillary Clinton in 2016, then who?"
That's a question that Democrats may have to begrudgingly ask themselves in the coming weeks, as a New York Times story about Clinton's email use during her time as secretary of state—compounded with earlier reporting on the Clinton Foundation—roil Clintonland.
Clinton's allies are already insisting the email story—that Clinton exclusively used her personal email address while at the State Department—is a nothing-burger. It isn't news. It will blow over after conservatives have had their 48 hours of outrage. After all, it's unclear whether Clinton actually violated any rules! Move along, nothing to see here.
But the story doesn't make the Democrats' only current hope look good. The news fits perfectly into the narrative that Clinton's opponents are already trying to create: that she and her husband are secretive, less-than-scrupulous career politicians who are more interested in preserving their own power than being held accountable to American voters. In other words, that they are a real-life Frank and Claire Underwood.
And while that characterization may not be fair, Democrats may find themselves wondering if they need to start looking for an alternate candidate who does not represent entrenched power, much like in House of Cards season 3. Mild spoiler alert: finding such an alternate to back is a lot easier for the fictional Democrats than in real life. If Clinton's email problem continues to dog her into the campaign—or if she surprises everyone and decides not to run—the Democratic Party could be caught flat-footed.