To say the revelation from the State Department that 22 of Hillary Clinton's emails from her term as secretary of state contained top secret information is not good news for her presidential campaign is probably an understatement, but experts and Republican strategists doubt it will be a significant roadblock in her path to the Democratic nomination.
The State Department announced Friday that 37 pages of emails from the private server Clinton used to conduct her government business include information so sensitive that they cannot even be released in redacted form. This is the first official confirmation from the Obama administration that Clinton's emails did contain top secret material, which letters from the intelligence community inspector general had alleged.
18 emails between Clinton and President Barack Obama are also not being released "to protect the president's ability to receive unvarnished advice and counsel." State Department spokesman John Kirby said those emails have not been determined to be classified.
More than 1,300 other emails released so far have been partially redacted due to classified information, but the State Department and Clinton's campaign have claimed that material was retroactively classified.
If she wins the nomination, it will certainly be an issue that her Republican opponent raises in the general election, but its effect on her in the Democratic primaries is blunted in part by the fact that Sanders has generally refused to attack her over it.
"I'm not so sure it really affects her in the primary because it doesn't seem that Bernie Sanders is going to go after her," said Republican strategist Ford O'Connell.
If Sanders tops Clinton in both of the first two voting states and he sees a legitimate chance of winning the nomination, though, Skelley and O'Connell suggested Sanders may rethink his approach.
"You can run attack ads all day long with this information," O'Connell said, adding that the Clinton campaign's handling of the scandal indicates she has "been playing legal hopscotch from the beginning."
"It's clear even if you're a Clinton fan that she's been fudging the truth," he said.
"She hangs her hat on her experience and years of service. How did she not know?" O'Connell said.