Hillary Clinton is hinting about maybe running in 2020 again. Is she serious, or is this just a publicity stunt?
With the midterm elections heading into their final week, attention is already turning to the 2020 election and what is likely to be a hard-fought race for the Democratic nomination to face-off against Donald Trump two years from now. We’ve already seen a number of names popping up, including familiar names such as Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Joe Biden, Cory Booker, and Kamala Harris and unfamiliar ones like Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper, Ohio Congressman Tim Ryan, and even Stormy Daniels’ attorney Michael Avenatti. Now, there’s likely to be a new round of speculation about the Presidential ambitions of another blast from the recent past, Hillary Clinton:
Former Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton during an event over the weekend left the door open to a possible 2020 run, saying that even though she doesn’t want to run, “I’d like to be president.”
Clinton’s comments come as speculation has increased over whether she will launch another bid after the midterm elections.
“Do you want to run again?” Recode’s Kara Swisher asked during a Friday night Q&A with Clinton.
“No,” Clinton replied quickly, sparking laughter from the audience. But when Swisher pressed her further, she added: “I’d like to be president.”
Clinton went on to say that “there’s going to be so much work to be done” after a Democrat “hopefully” wins the next presidential election.
“The work would be work that I feel very well prepared for having been in the Senate for eight years, having been a diplomat in the State Department,” she said, listing off the qualifications that she often touted during her previous run.
She added that she’s not going to think about a possible run until after the upcoming midterm elections.
Clinton and her husband, former President Bill Clinton, announced this month that they will be embarking on a 13-city tour over the next year, hosting discussions about current events and politics across the country.
Clinton in September released a few afterward for her campaign memoir, “What Happened,” criticizing the Trump administration’s policies and expressing concern that the nation’s democracy is “in crisis.”
She has stepped up her presence in the national spotlight, appearing in media interviews with greater frequency to criticize the GOP and President Trump.
Longtime Clinton aide Philippe Reines in a Politico profile earlier this month said there is a “not zero” chance that the former Secretary of State will run against Trump.
“It’s curious why Hillary Clinton’s name isn’t in the mix—either conversationally or in formal polling—as a 2020 candidate,” Reines told Politico. “She’s younger than Donald Trump by a year. She’s younger than Joe Biden by four years. Is it that she’s run before? This would be Bernie Sanders’s second time, and Biden’s third time. Is it lack of support? She had 65 million people vote for her.”
This speculation comes notwithstanding the fact that when she was on her post-election book tour last year, Clinton appeared to make it clear that she was done running for office. As I noted at the time, this was hardly a surprising announcement on Clinton’s part. With the possible exception of Joe Biden, few people who have lost campaigns for President have managed to make a successful political comeback, and Clinton’s losses in 2008 and 2012 both came in situations where, at least at the start, it seemed as though there was no way she could lose. The situation in 2008 was far different from what happened last year in that Clinton had merely come in a very close second in a race for the Democratic nomination with the candidate who ultimately went on to win the Presidency. In 2016, though, Clinton entered the club of candidates who lost a General Election and did so notwithstanding the fact that, right up until the night before the election, nearly everyone in the country expected her to win handily. With the exception of Thomas Dewey, Adlai Stevenson, and Richard Nixon, nobody in recent American history who has lost a General Election for President has managed to make a significant political comeback of any kind, and none of them have managed to win the nomination of their party again. Additionally, Clinton would be 73 years old in 2020, making it seem unlikely that she would be in the mood to launch another grueling campaign for her party’s nomination and, if she won, a General Election Finally, the ongoing ideological battle inside the Democratic Party seems to be turning decidedly against the center-left position that Clinton represents and the resentment over her treatment of Bernie Sanders during last years primary would likely mean that her reception in the party would not be nearly as rapturous as it was in 2008 and 2016.
All this being true, what’s to explain Clinton keeping the door open in this manner, and how might a third Clinton bid for the White House be received by Democrats?
On the first count, part of the answer lies in the fact that Clinton is just being Clinton. As noted, she and her husband are set to begin an ambitious self-promoting tour of the country during which they’ll be engaging in speeches about, well, who knows what. If there’s a question mark hanging over Hillary as a potential 2020 candidate, that is only going to increase the interest of members of the public and the media in what the Clintons have to say, which is likely to inure to their financial benefit in the years to come. Even if she doesn’t end up running, and I honestly think that this is what she’ll ultimately decide to do, keeping that speculation open means that the public and political pundits would be paying more attention to her and her husband. It is, in other words, classic Clinton behavior and they are betting on the fact that the news media, the pundits, and the rest of us, will fall for it. And they’re probably right.
Additionally, I think it’s true that, on some level, Clinton really does still want to be President. Heck, she’s made no secret of that fact ever since becoming a Senator, and arguably long before that during the final years of her husband’s Presidency. Twice she’s run, and twice she’s lost to candidates that she no doubt were far beneath her. The idea of trying again has no doubt been on her mind quite a lot since the night of November 8, 2016, when a campaign that seemed to be headed toward the ultimate conclusion of the election of the first female President in American history ended in shock and disappointment. While losing the Democratic nomination to Barack Obama in 2008 hurt, the loss to Donald Trump of all people has no doubt hurt even more. Given that, the idea of a rematch with Trump in which Clinton emerges victorious, which would by no means be certain, has most likely crossed her mind more than once.
All that being said, it seems clear to me that a third Clinton Presidential bid would not be received nearly as warmly by Democrats as her bids in 2008 and 2016 were. For one thing, as I noted above, candidates who have lost Presidential bids twice rarely are able to make a successful third run at the office, and that is likely to be as true for Clinton as it was for two-time losers in the past. In addition to the drumbeat of history, the fact of the matter is that the Democratic Party has changed significantly from what it was in either 2008 and 2016, and in no small part that means that the brand of center-left politics that the Clintons represent is largely out of favor now. What’s in favor is the so-called “progressive” politics of Warren, Sanders, and others, and the people with whom those policies resonate made their feelings about Clinton quite well-known during the 2016 campaign. Finally, the 2020 race for the Democratic nomination is likely to be a much more crowded field than what we saw in 2016. Unlike two years ago, candidates who see President Trump as vulnerable are unlikely to sit out the campaign if Clinton runs or continues to make it known that she’s considering running. Several of these candidates will be people who will be able to do a much better job than Bernie Sanders did at attracting the Democratic base vote that helped push Clinton over the top in 2016. Anything is possible, I suppose, but it seems likely that a third Clinton bid for the Democratic nomination isn’t going to be well-received.
All that being said, in the end I don’t think Clinton is actually going to run in 2020. That’s not going to stop the media from slavishly following her and Bill around the country, giving them and their “speaking tour” tons of free publicity. Which is, I think, the real motive behind Hilary pretending to open the 2020 door just a crack.