For Hillary Clinton, the shadow campaign ends now.
Clinton’s national book tour will thrust her firmly into the public spotlight, taking her from coast to coast for book signings and media interviews that could set the stage for a presidential run in 2016.
The former secretary of State has carved out time for the media, scheduling two interviews with ABC — one taped and one live — and a 30-minute sit-down with Fox News. She’ll also engage in a live town hall hosted by CNN at the Newseum in Washington.
The flurry of appearances marks a coming out of sorts for Clinton, who has kept a relatively low profile since leaving the State Department in early 2013.
The early leak of a book chapter about her mother suggests she’ll use the tour to reveal a personal side of herself that she was criticized for hiding during her failed 2008 campaign.
Democratic consultant Bob Shrum said the tour also allows her to take control of the narrative surrounding the 2012 attacks that killed four Americans in Benghazi, Libya.
“It gives her a chance to answer this Benghazi ridiculousness before it proliferates,” he said.
The travel itinerary will also give Clinton a chance to mingle with powerbrokers in the Democratic Party who are already laying the groundwork for a 2016 bid, Shrum noted.
But for all the opportunities the book tour offers, it also comes with peril.
Republicans are focusing on what they argue are the questions, holes and exaggerations in the books.
The GOP opposition research firm America Rising will release an e-book next week titled Failed Choices, a riff off Clinton’s book’s title of Hard Choices, that claims to “reveal the truth” about Clinton’s time at the State Department.
Tim Miller, executive director for the group, said they are preparing a heavy offensive for the book tour.
“Given that great promise that she came into Foggy Bottom with, the results leave a lot to be desired,” he said.
“I think that for her, this book tour is going to be her attempt to try to change that narrative and I think we’ve seen some of the strategies she’s going to employ. … Secretary Clinton now is trying to recast history to take credit for certain things. It’s going to be our role to do our best to counter that.”
The Republican National Committee (RNC) also plans to counter Clinton’s tour with surrogates, news blasts and other tactics pushing back on her narrative.
RNC Chairman Reince Priebus over the weekend knocked Clinton for “playing politics” by releasing a chapter of her book that deals with the attacks in Benghazi. He said the attacks “disqualify” Clinton from holding the White House.
GOP strategist Karl Rove, meanwhile, has questioned Clinton’s health and dismissed her as “old and stale.”
The comments from Rove and Priebus highlight the risk that the tour poses for Clinton, as the constant media attention will open her up to a barrage of criticism.
Steve Elmendorf, a campaign surrogate for Clinton’s 2008 bid, said she has retained such high popularity and enthusiasm among Democrats in part because she’s been out of the spotlight. But that fervor could fade as she wades back into political life.
“She’s so popular because she’s not running for anything,” he said. “When you start to run for something, you get more into the fray and more into the negative attacks.”
There’s a possibility that the sheer volume of attacks could erode her political support even before she’s officially launched a campaign.
“The peril for her is being perceived too soon as too political, which is why she hasn’t been out there every day commenting on the issues of the day,” Elmendorf said.
In preparation for the expected uptick in attacks from Republicans and scrutiny of her record, Clinton has brought on Tommy Vietor, the former spokesman for President Obama’s National Security Council, and Kiki McLean, a senior adviser to Clinton’s 2008 campaign, to manage the rollout of the book and ensuing developments.
But Clinton’s team plans to keep the focus of the tour on the book as much as possible and refuses to acknowledge the possibility of a 2016 run.
Asked to discuss the upcoming book tour within the context of her potential presidential bid, Nick Merrill, Clinton’s spokesman, dismissed the question.
“There is no candidate, so there is no campaign,” he said in an email to The Hill.