Kirsten Gillibrand Shifts Her Stand On Running For President

With the election over, New York's junior Senator seems to have changed her mind about running for President.

Less than forty-eight hours after the midterms ended and confirmed her easy victory in a bid for re-election, New York’s junior Senator is talking about running for President:

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand on Thursday gave her strongest public indication yet that she was contemplating a run for president in 2020, telling the late-night show host Stephen Colbert she would “give it a long, hard thought of consideration.”

“I’ve seen the hatred and the division that President Trump has put out into our country, and it has called me to fight as hard as I possibly can to restore the moral compass of this country,” Ms. Gillibrand, Democrat of New York, said in what sounded like the makings of a campaign theme.

Ms. Gillibrand, who won re-election to her second full term on Tuesday, had for months brushed aside questions about her 2020 ambitions by saying she was focused fully on 2018.

But with the midterms behind her, Mr. Colbert asked Ms. Gillibrand if there was “another election that you might be concentrating on.” She closed her eyes, smiled and nodded almost knowingly before answering.

“I do think it’s an important question,” she said.

Colbert jumped in: “It is an important question. That’s why I asked it.”

She called it “a moral question for me,” before eventually saying: “I believe right now that every one of us should figure out how we can do whatever we can with our time, with our talents to restore that moral decency, that moral compass and that truth of who we are as Americans. So I will promise you I will give it a long, hard thought of consideration.”

“That close,” Mr. Colbert joked.


Ms. Gillibrand’s appearance on “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert” came on her first stop in a heavy media tour following the midterms. She also has appearances scheduled on “Good Morning America,” “The View” and “The Daily Show,” and other cable news appearances are in the works.

The media blitz coincides with the publication of an illustrated children’s book she wrote, “Bold & Brave: Ten Heroes Who Won Women the Right to Vote.” It is set to be released Nov. 13.

Ms. Gillibrand has planned a small book tour, which includes stops in Washington, D.C., Northern Virginia, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Albany and New York City through mid-December.

Ms. Gillibrand, who was appointed to the Senate in 2009 to replace Hillary Clinton after Mrs. Clinton was nominated as secretary of state, won roughly two-thirds of the vote in her election on Tuesday. The 3.73 million votes she received were the most for any candidate in New York this year — nearly 400,000 more than Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, a fellow Democrat who is also considered a potential presidential candidate. He just won election to a third term as governor and has denied interest in a 2020 run.

Ms. Gillibrand spent minimally on her campaign. Her campaign chest actually grew from the beginning of the year through October, the opposite direction of most bank accounts during campaigns. She has more than $10.6 million in the bank, all of which could be used to jump-start a presidential run.

More from The Washington Post:

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) said Thursday she would give a 2020 presidential bid “a long, hard thought of consideration,” marking a shift in posture from how she addressed questions about her ambitions during her just-concluded reelection campaign.

Gillibrand, who was initially appointed to fill Hillary Clinton’s Senate seat and won reelection Tuesday, addressed the issue during an appearance on CBS’s “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.” The host asked if there were “another election that you might be concentrating on.”

Gillibrand called that “an important question.”

“I believe right now that every one of us should figure out how we can do whatever we can with our time, with our talents to restore that moral decency, that moral compass and that truth of who we are as Americans,” she told Colbert. “So I will promise you I will give it a long, hard thought of consideration.”

During her campaign for reelection, Gillibrand brushed off questions about 2020, pledging in one debate to serve out her full six-year term representing New York.

If she runs, Gillibrand is expected to be part of a crowded field of Democrats, including several of her colleagues from the Senate.

During her Senate tenure, Gillibrand has been outspoken on issues such as sexual assault in the military, sexual harassment, equal pay for women and family leave.

It was just a couple weeks ago, of course, during the final debate between Gillibrand and her hapless Republican opponent, who ended up getting just one-third of the vote, that Gillibrand said that she intended to serve her full six-year term if she were re-elected as expected. Here’s how that issue came up during the debate, as summarized by Jazz Shaw at Hot Air, who notes that Gillibrand was asked twice about the issue during that debate:

Moderator: ”Can you tell New Yorkers, who plan to vote for you on November 6, that you will, if re-elected, serve out your six-year Senate term?”

Gillibrand: ”I will.”

Moderator: ”Just want to make this clear, you’re saying that you will not get out of the race and you will not run for president? You will serve your six years?”

Gillibrand: ”I will serve my six-year term.”

Gillibrand’s statement at the debate stood in contrast to contemporaneous comments from the likes of Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, both of whom were also up for re-election this week. In both cases, the candidates refused to rule out the idea of running for President in two years and, in both cases, it certainly didn’t have any impact on the outcome of their respective elections. Warren beat her Republican opponent by roughly 650,000 votes and Sanders beat his opponent by just under 110,000 votes. This is a clear indication that leaving the door open to a 2020 run for President did not harm either of those candidates, and the same is likely true of Gillibrand.  To be frank about it, it is unlikely that Gillibrand would have harmed herself at all if she had answered the 2020 question in the same way that Warren and Sanders did. As the election results indicate, her Republican opponent mounted what ended up being a token campaign in the end and its unlikely that many of the more than 3.7 million people who voted for her would have changed their votes based on the possibility that she might not stay in office depending on how the 2020 campaign turns out, or that she might be distracted from her duties as Senator by a Presidential run that, if she is to be taken seriously, will have to begin in at least some form by the spring of next years.

As I noted at the time, Gillibrand’s response to the 2020 question during the debate is similar to the one we typically hear from candidates who have been the subject of Presidential speculation who are running for election or re-election. The most recent example of this, of course, is Barack Obama, who dismissed talk of running for President right up to the moment he declared his candidacy in 2007, and it was clear later on that he had been planning a bid for at least a year prior to that. Viewed in that light, Gillibrand’s denial three weeks ago and her seeming reversal yesterday is something that is so commonplace that it’s hard to get all that worked up about. No doubt, New York voters who have been following the race were well aware of the fact that Gillibrand has been the subject of Presidential speculation, and so has New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, who won his race for another term by more than 1.3 million votes. Cuomo also ruled out the idea of running for President while he was still facing what turned out to be a rather pointless primary challenge from actress Cynthia Nixon, but as with Gillibrand that hasn’t stopped the speculation that he may end up running anyway. In his case as well, there are no signs that the voters of New York disaproved of what some might consider to be his untruthfulness.

Whether Gillibrand actually ends up running remains to be seen. If she does,though, I doubt that Democratic voters are going to hold this against her.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2018, Campaign 2020, Congress, US Politics,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook


  1. Teve says:

    Based on the historic turnout from Tuesday, and half a dozen extra factors, I’d be handicapping Generic Dem Nominee at like +5 in 2020. Probly gonna be lots of people who want to win that primary.

  2. Blue Galangal says:

    But it wasn’t a moral question of railroading Al Franken out of the Senate, I guess.

    I hope the Democrats have the sense to go with a nominee with some real moral fiber.

  3. Todd says:

    After the experiences of Gore, Kerry, Hillary Clinton and even Michael Dukakis way back in 1988, I hope the Democrats have learned that in 2020 nominating someone with charisma, who can connect with voters, is MUCH more important than nominating someone with a good resume.

  4. Todd says:
  5. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    A politician with moral fiber is easy to find. The exhibit is right between the ones for the Yeti and
    Sasquatch and across from the Chupacabra exhibit.

  6. Gustopher says:

    @Blue Galangal: Senator Grabby Hands had to go — his offenses may not have been a large as Donald Trump’s, but we don’t use Donald Trump as a moral yardstick.

    We should not tolerate that behavior from our public servants, when the governor of their state is a Democrat, and we can safely be rid of them without altering the direction of the country.

    If Franken would have been replaced by a Republican, I would have been saying that grabby hands is a minor offense compared to the damage another Republican Senator would do, and he should hang in there. I would have been offended by Senator Gillibrand’s calls for him to leave.

    But, if we can take the moral high road and not pay a price? Damn straight, let’s do that.

  7. Gustopher says:

    @Todd: America wants a spokesperson as much as a President. This is why I support George Clooney for President.

    The Clooney/Warren ticket would clean up.

  8. Blue Galangal says:

    @Gustopher: Generally speaking, three or four years ago, I would have agreed with you and with Michelle Obama. But 12 years of turning the other cheek has gotten us exactly nowhere. If we got the House back, it’s because of 17 kids from Florida who canvassed the fk out of this country, African American and Latino/a GOTV efforts, a few white suburban women who might finally be willing to admit that kids in cages is a reason to clutch their pearls and vote D, and all the “little people” who donated to ActBlue as well as Trump’s daily doses of insanity. It’s not because we’re seeing great leadership or a coherent message from the Democratic National Committee or senators like Gillibrand or even Harris. Franken was able to simplify his message and stick to it, and that is a rare commodity in the Democratic Party right now. Gillibrand certainly can’t do it. She spent her war chest on the stupidest Twitter ads ever.

    So imho it’s possible that if the Democrats had stood together, the Franken story would have blown over. And if it hadn’t, if the investigation had shown something, then regular order would have been followed. Whatever actually happened to his accuser, who seemed to melt into the woodwork once her Republican ties were exposed?

    Any moral high ground is as evanescent as a rainbow in this Trumpian age. Meanwhile, Christine Blasey Ford is still receiving death threats. The GOP is beyond humiliation or accusations of hypocrisy. They lie in plain sight of a video everyone can see. Franken was charismatic and intelligent, and he was a senior member of the Judiciary Committee. Granted, there was not a net loss on the Senate, but a good man and an ally was hung out to dry by the Democrats without an investigation (that he himself called for and welcomed) being conducted.

    The GOP fricking appointed a wannabe rapist who is professionally deeply unqualified to the SC and their members walked in lockstep all the way to the end. Franken’s resignation didn’t materially affect that nomination or confirmation in any way.

    Was it too much to ask Gillibrand et al. to call for an investigation to be conducted instead of heading up calls for Franken to resign without even an investigation? In conclusion: she, among others, seems to be quite the opportunist. I didn’t believe she wasn’t interested in running for president the minute she stuck the knife in Franken’s back, and I believed her denial during the campaign even less. Why she thinks she’s qualified – what, is it NY water or something? – I have no idea, but I’m pleased to see the Democrats now have a deep enough bench that she can eventually fade into the obscurity she so richly deserves.

  9. Gustopher says:

    @Blue Galangal: Women were coming out of the woodwork on Franken — it wasn’t just one accuser. There was a regular drip, drip drip of accusations. And, Franken could have hold steady if he wanted, and wait for an investigation — he chose to leave.

    I have no doubt that if he wasn’t regularly grabbing butts (possibly for illconsidered comedic effect) and things like that, he would have hung on. He has a backbone.

    Al Franken was a good voice in the Senate. But he wasn’t going to continue to be a good voice if he was dogged by harassment allegations. He is a good-ish man brought low by his own bad behavior.

    And the accusers? Of course they slipped back into the woodwork. Look what happened to Christine Blasey Ford. I have no doubt that women who accuse Democrats of mild sexual improprieties are treated a whole lot better than women who accuse Republicans of attempted rape, but I also don’t think they are treated well. I’m not going to begrudge them from running from the spotlight as soon as possible.

    I totally understand your argument, but I just think you’re wrong. We cannot demand better of others if we aren’t willing to demand better of ourselves.

    I do temper this with not wanting 16 million Americans to lose health insurance because a Senator thought it would be funny to grab someone’s butt — we should clean our house when we can, when we won’t be hurting others.

  10. Gustopher says:

    @Blue Galangal: I do agree that Gillbrand is an opportunist. I don’t strongly dislike her, but she is not one of the candidates I would be most delighted to see win the nomination.

    We have a pretty deep bench this year, so I suspect that she will fade into the background unless she demonstrates something special we haven’t seen yet.

  11. An Interested Party says:

    I figure I’ll cross post this as it bears repeating…

    Todd makes a very good point…Trump has proven that political experience and a good resume mean nothing when compared to personality and connecting with voters…two attributes that Beto has in spades and that a lot of other Democratic possibilities are lacking…I have to laugh at how conservatives have tried to make fun of and diminish Beto as nothing more than some kind of celebrity…as if the trash in the White House that they whole-heartedly support is any more than that…


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