Six months ago, few would have predicted the Republican nomination would be all but wrapped up by late April, while Hillary Clinton -- Hillary the Inevitable -- would still be mired in her own primary race, fending off attacks from both Republicans and Democrats.
The Clinton camp would very much like to get this unfortunate business with Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders wrapped up as quickly as possible so that the resources spent on trying to woo fellow Democrats could be funneled into what's expected to be a tough and ugly general election.
But Sanders won't go away, and neither will his supporters. Hillary has come to a crossroads: Does she keep on, looking weaker by the day as she fails to rally her party's base and continues to lose primaries? Or does she reach out to Sanders and try to bring him -- and by extension, his millions of supporters -- into the fold?
Ego may prevent Clinton from acknowledging Sanders' considerable political power, but if she wants the ultimate prize of the presidency, then she may not have any other choice.
Consider her position. Embarrassingly, polls show that while the general electorate considers her to be dishonest, even people within her own party find her untrustworthy. A Gallup poll released in February tallied the top reactions to Clinton among undecided voters, and "dishonest/liar/don't trust her" was first on the list. A YouGov poll found similar attitudes, with 56 percent of voters saying the former New York senator is dishonest, making her the least-trusted presidential contender.
Likewise, exit polls in New Hampshire, where Clinton suffered a loss to Sanders, showed that nine in 10 Democrats who said honesty was the most important quality in a political candidate voted for Sanders, per The Washington Post.
Clinton has done little to shake that perception, and recent events have arguably made things worse, which is one of the major reasons Sanders continues to press on.
The Department of Justice's ongoing probe into Clinton's homebrew email server continues to dog her, and it doesn't help that many voters are convinced President Barack Obama is shielding her from prosecution. Clinton has consistently downplayed the investigation, calling it a "security inquiry." FBI director James Comey rebuffed the candidate on May 11, when a reporter asked him what he thought of the creative rebranding of the word "investigation" into "inquiry."
“I don’t know what that means," Comey told reporters in Washington, D.C. on May 11, according to ABC News. "We’re conducting an investigation. That’s the bureau’s business. That’s what we do."
That same day brought more bad news for the Clinton campaign, with a published investigation revealing the Clintons have taken enormous sums of money from Middle East leaders. That includes $100 million given to the Clinton Foundation, and another $30 million "given to the Clintons by two Mideast-based foundations and four billionaire Saudis," according to Investors Business Daily.
And then there's the nagging Wall Street issue and Sanders' relentless criticism on Clinton's cozy relationships with big banks. Clinton has dodged calls to release transcripts of her Wall Street speeches for months, and her attempts to cast herself as a populist candidate ring hollow when Wall Street firms have been her biggest donors in every campaign she's run since her first bid for a New York senate seat.
Clinton can minimize those issues all she wants. And she's quite adept at it, pushing the narrative that questions about her character are smears from the right wing, misogynists or any group, really.
But the truth is, those are issues that matter to the millions of Democrats who passionately throw their support behind Sanders.
Bringing Sanders into the fold as part of her administration, or even as her vice presidential running mate, is going to take a lot of work and a lot of convincing, but it beats the alternative of trying to win over voters without the explicit support of the Vermont senator.
"Bernie Sanders is not going away," The New York Times' Gail Collins wrote in a May 12 column calling for Clinton to bring Sanders on board. "And why should he? The weather is nice, the crowds are enormous and he keeps winning primaries."
Without Sanders, Clinton is the candidate who traded political favors for money while she was Secretary of State, the candidate who lined her pockets with speeches to firms like Goldman Sachs and the candidate who wants to shape technology policy but feigns ignorance about how email works.
With Sanders, she's still all of those things, but a huge portion of the Democratic base might be persuaded to support her come November. The choice is a no-brainer.