Hillary Clinton’s stumbles fuel Democratic critics

Updated 12:32 PM EST, Thu March 5, 2015
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(CNN) —  

The Democratic Party’s anybody-but-Hillary wing is fired up.

A string of damaging stories about Hillary Clinton’s activities as Secretary of State – including the new controversy surrounding her email habits – are giving fresh ammo to Clinton skeptics who have grown resigned lately to the idea of a Democratic coronation instead of a genuine, competitive primary.

Now, those Democrats clamoring for a Clinton alternative are once again speaking up about the need for a primary that will, at the very least, serve as a vetting process and prepare Clinton for the general election.

“The closer we get to 2016, the more the electorate pays attention, which we’re now seeing with foreign contributions to the Clinton Foundation and in Hillary’s undisclosed emails,” said Boyd Brown, a Democratic National Committee member and former state legislator from South Carolina. “These are problems that raise real leadership and transparency concerns, concerns that can be addressed in caucuses and primaries, but would go ignored in a coronation process.”

READ: Don’t ask Dems in Congress about Hillary Clinton’s emails

In conversations with grassroots Democrats around the country and in key nominating states, there is renewed concern that Clinton is saddled with too much baggage and dubious political instincts that could sink her against the GOP nominee if the kinks are not worked out in a contested primary.

“The Democratic base that isn’t wedded to her is nervous about it,” said Deborah Arnie Arnesen, a progressive radio host in Concord, New Hampshire. “It makes her more vulnerable. What is this anointed candidate getting us? A much more flawed candidate than we thought. And Republicans now have material they never thought they would have.”

’Nervous’

“We need to litigate this in a primary so that she will better at it, or it will be the Republicans who will be doing it for her,” she added.

The latest round of bad press began last week when the Washington Post reported on foreign government contributions made to the Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton Foundation while she was serving as Secretary of State, including one donation from the Algerian government that may have violated the Obama administration’s ethics policy.

This week, the New York Times broke the news that Clinton exclusively used a private email account to do business at the State Department, allowing her to skirt federal record-keeping practices. The revelation also raised security concerns, though State Department officials said nothing classified passed through her account.