Politically, ... Republicans find themselves in an awkward position. The RNC issued a statement asking, “[I]t all begs the question: what was Hillary Clinton trying to hide?”It wasn't just that Republicans said those scandals didn't matter -- for better or worse, the public agreed. With regard to the Bush administration emails, New York magazine's Margaret Hartmann recalls that "From 2007 through the first year of the Obama administration, top Bush officials were embroiled in a scandal" -- but "embroiled" is a strong word, because it wasn't a scandal that crossed most ordinary Americans' radar. And the Romney story never broke through at all.
Putting aside the misuse of “begs the question,” the Republican track record makes this a difficult question to ask.
Eight years ago, for example, the Bush/Cheney White House ran into trouble when its officials were found to have routinely ignored the Federal Records Act. Among others, Karl Rove, who was accused of widespread abuses, used private email accounts instead of official accounts to conduct administrative business. At the time, Republicans en masse said the controversy wasn’t important.
Three years ago we learned that Mitt Romney oversaw the purchase of 17 state-issued hard drives, and wiped clean computers and servers that contained electronic copies of emails from his gubernatorial office. Romney later admitted the move was intended to hide official correspondence from the public and keep potentially-embarrassing information under wraps in advance of his presidential campaign. During the 2012 race, Republicans said this didn’t matter, either.
I think members of the public assume that every politician is at least somewhat sneaky and corrupt, so citizens do triage on negative political stories. They cared about Bush-era mismanagement of wars and the flawed response to Katrina (and, ultimately, the collapse of the economy on Bush's watch). With Romney, they cared about his plutocratic bent, and they paid attention when he was reluctant to release several years of tax returns because that was relatable -- Americans have to report their taxes to the government every year, and fear having to endure extra scrutiny if they're audited, so a little disclosure of tax information seems the least a candidate can do in return. But email disclosure isn't something that's of much interest to most people, in the absence of a specific scandal that's being concealed -- most Americans don't face demands to archive their own emails, and most Americans don't have any interest in poring over archives of anyone else's emails.
Which is not to say that what Hillary did was justified -- it put her above the law and it suggests that she's hiding something, or at least that she has a neurotic tendency toward concealment even when there's nothing to conceal. But I agree with this:
FORECAST: In October 2016, no persuadable voter will be thinking about Hillary Clinton's email account.— The Monkey Cage (@monkeycageblog) March 3, 2015
That's unless we see evidence that there was a cover-up of something that matters to people. (No, Benghazi doesn't count, because the vast majority of Americans don't care whether someone from the State Department offered one explanation of Benghazi in the immediate aftermath and that explanation was corrected mere weeks later, when the attack happened two and a half years ago). This reveals bad judgment, but it's not going to be an enduring scandal unless there's much more to it.