Will conservative GOP mansplainers pave Clinton’s path to the Oval Office?

Clicking through the latest batch of newly released Hillary Clinton emails, the ninth one from the top of the list caught my eye. How could it not, with the title “How to Deal with a Mansplainer Starring Hillary Clinton in GIFs”?

Since my wife tells me I’m prone to bouts of mansplaining myself, I had to click. It’s a funny (and -- warning -- explicit) blogpost on a site called Feministing.com about Clinton’s 2013 appearance before a Senate panel inquiring about Benghazi. Using Clinton as a template, the (female) author tells other women how to handle the occasional condescending/preachy/know-it-all mansplainer who might wander across their paths.

In this priceless moment below, Clinton demonstrates the sly smile and knowing nod to employ when a man (Sen. John McCain in this instance) declares you too combative and proceeds to rant at you:

I couldn’t help but think that many women of all political stripes likely find this: A) hilarious and B) right on point. It reinforced a point I’ve already come to believe about the 2016 presidential race. Barring some damaging revelation from the ongoing email investigation, Clinton’s going to trounce any of the hard-right conservative men the GOP appears likely to nominate. (Sorry, Carly Fiorina. GOP primary voters don’t seem ready to buy what you’re selling).

She’ll do so partly on the strength of the women’s vote. Calls to defund Planned Parenthood and abolish the Department of Education might play well in GOP primaries, but they’ll turn off critical blocks of independent and undecided women.

Clinton versus Rubio? She’s already secured a hard-earned roadmap for what not to do against a handsome, eloquent, inexperienced young senator.

Clinton versus Cruz? She’s already drooling. Heck, GOP leaders in Washington hate him so much they might secretly help her.

Clinton versus Trump? See aforementioned drool.

All of which leads me to my main point. Republicans are about to make the same mistake they’ve made in the past two elections, just in a different way this time. With John McCain and Mitt Romney, they appointed mainstream moderates who had to pretend they were hardline conservatives to get through the primaries. General election voters said thanks, but no.

Now the GOP base appears determined to nominate a real hardline conservative. This at a time when most of the country’s shifting leftward on key social issues such as gay marriage. It’s early in the game, of course, but it appears fairly likely at this point that we’re looking at the second consecutive history-making Democratic president. That’s why the email issue is being whipped with such fervency in conservative quarters.

I’m hardly a Koch acolyte, but I’d like to see Clinton get a good, tough general election challenge from the GOP. How much more interesting would it have been if that challenge came from an equally tough Republican woman? Like, say, New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte. She’s the GOP mirror image of Clinton – hypercompetent, poised, articulate, a defense hawk. And she’s an electable middle-of-the-road moderate.

There’s still time for GOP primary voters to break free from their Trump-swoon and give a Kasich or a Christie or even a Bush a closer look. Otherwise, FBI Director James Comey might be the only Republican who can keep Clinton out of the Oval Office. Eric Frazier