Hillary Clinton looks for her role in midterms

Hillary Clinton looks for her role in midterms
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Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonChris Murphy’s profile rises with gun tragedies DNC, RNC step up cyber protections Gun proposal picks up GOP support MORE wants to play a role in next year’s midterm elections. It’s just not clear yet what that role will be. 

Clinton has already launched a PAC aimed at helping congressional Democratic candidates in 2018, signaling the former first lady, senator and secretary of State is ready to help her party with fundraising. 

She also is looking at the House districts she won in last year’s presidential contest against Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpIvanka Trump pens op-ed on kindergartners learning tech Bharara, Yates tamp down expectations Mueller will bring criminal charges Overnight Cybersecurity: Equifax security employee left after breach | Lawmakers float bill to reform warrantless surveillance | Intel leaders keeping collusion probe open MORE as part of an autopsy of her failed campaign, according to two sources who have spoken to the former secretary of State.  

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It’s at least possible she’ll lend a hand on the campaign trail — particularly in the 23 districts held by Republicans where voters preferred her over Donald Trump for the White House. 

“She's very well aware of how she performed in those districts,” said one longtime Clinton confidant who has spoken to the former Democratic nominee. 

“She knows she won Darrell Issa's district by 8,” the confidant said, referring to the California Republican who is a top Democratic target. “She knows she came close in about a handful of others. She has studied this stuff thoroughly.”

Democrats are focused on the Golden State as they seek to win back the House majority. 

Ellen Tauscher — a Clinton ally and former California congresswoman — along with a longtime aide Katie Merrill, have started a super PAC focused on seven of the so-called “split districts” in that state that voted for Clinton but backed a Republican candidate for the House. 

Democrats are still mapping out a game plan for 2018 along with a message for their rudderless party. But another Clinton confidant said part of the plan might be to have Clinton campaign for candidates in the places where she won. 

“No one can argue that Clinton helping in those areas wouldn't be helpful,” the confidant said. “That is a priority for her.”

If Clinton hits the campaign trail, Republicans are ready to pounce. They say they would welcome Clinton's presence on the stump because it would help GOP candidates. 

"For 30 years, Hillary Clinton has essentially been Old Faithful for Republican candidates," said Doug Heye, a Republican strategist. "Her continued prominence only helps GOP candidates with an electorate that historically is more favorable than what they faced in the last presidential election. 

"The more Clinton weighs in and tries to tell voters 'I'm baaaack,' the more Republicans will tell her to keep on trucking," Heye continued. 

Still, Chris Lehane, a Democratic strategist, added that Clinton, “could have a real voice in these places, absolutely.” 

“She can go into those districts and make a case that there is an opportunity to do a course correction and do it in a fairly compelling way,” Lehane said, particularly if Democrats strengthen their message and give voters a reason to vote for them.  

In May, during a question and answer session at the Code Conference, an event focused on tech, media and politics, Clinton indicated her focus is on winning those House seats for her party. 

“Everything will change if we win in 2018,” she said at the conference. “We have to flip 24 seats. I won 23 districts that have a Republican Congress member, seven of them are in California. 

“If we can flip those, if we can go deeper into where I did well, where we can get good candidates, I think flipping the House is certainly realistic. It’s a goal that we can set for ourselves,” she continued.

Republican-held House seats in districts Clinton won 

MemberDistrictClintonTrumpMargin of Victory
David ReichertWash.-0847.744.73
Barbara ComstockVa.-1052.242.210
Pete SessionsTexas-3248.546.61.9
Will HurdTexas-2349.846.43.4
John CulbersonTexas-0748.547.11.4
Pat MeehanPa.-0749.3472.3
Ryan CostelloPa.-0648.247.60.6
John KatkoN.Y.-2448.945.33.6
Leonard LanceN.J.-0748.647.51.1
Erik PaulsenMinn.-0350.841.49.4
Kevin YoderKevin YoderHow Republicans split on the Harvey aid, fiscal deal House GOP group puts staff in six new districts Progressive group running ads opposing tax cuts for the wealthy MOREKan.-0347.2461.2
Peter RoskamIll.-0650.243.27
Carlos CurbeloFla.-2656.740.616.1 
Ileana Ros-LehtinenFla.-2758.638.919.7
Mark CoffmanColo.-0650.241.38.9
Darrell IssaCalif.-4950.743.27.5
Dana RohrabacherCalif.-4847.946.21.7
Mimi WaltersCalif.-4549.844.45.4
Ed RoyceCalif.-3951.542.98.6
Steve KnightCalif.-2550.343.66.7
David ValadeoCalif.-2155.239.715.5
Jeff DenhamCalif.-1048.545.53
Martha McSallyAriz.0249.644.74.9
Source: Daily Kos

Even staunch Clinton supporters say that while there is room for her to play a role, she also needs to leave room for new leaders to emerge. 

Garry Mauro, a longtime friend of the Clintons who led Bill ClintonBill ClintonAll five living former presidents to attend hurricane relief concert The Hill's 12:30 Report The Hill's 12:30 Report MORE’s 1992 campaign effort in Texas, thinks the House can be won with the help of the Longhorn state, where there are three “split” districts. 

But he doesn’t want Clinton to be front and center. 

“Would she be well received? Of course, she would be. But we’re not going to win these races because Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaAll five living former presidents to attend hurricane relief concert Overnight Health Care: Schumer calls for tying ObamaCare fix to children's health insurance | Puerto Rico's water woes worsen | Dems plead for nursing home residents' right to sue Interior moves to delay Obama’s methane leak rule MORE, Michelle ObamaMichelle LeVaughn Robinson ObamaMichelle Obama criticizes lack of diversity in politics: one side is 'all white, all men' Obama interrupts Michelle's appearance with 25th anniversary tribute Michelle Obama: Young people feel what's happening now 'not what they were taught' MORE, Hillary Clinton or Nancy Pelosi comes to the state and campaigns,” Mauro said. “We’re going to win it because we represent new leadership and new ideas. 

“I think Secretary Clinton has got to define her role in American politics and she can play a real role in helping the Democratic Party but … we need new leadership,” Mauro added. “She can play a heck of a role. She just can’t play the dominant role.” 

Republicans have signaled they intend to link every Democrat running for the House next year to longtime Democratic leader and former Speaker Pelosi (Calif.), arguing a vote for the local Democrat would put Pelosi in charge. 

It’s an argument many Democrats are wary of, as it was used successfully against Jon Ossoff — the promising Democratic candidate who lost a special election in Georgia last month. 

Merrill, who started “Fight Back California” together with Tauscher, said there is a role Clinton can play when it comes to driving turnout among Democrats and the ability to raise money for Democratic candidates. 

“Midterm elections are notorious for low turnout and the ability to raise money — those are the two places Democrats will have trouble in the midterms,” Merrill said, adding that Clinton could contribute by doing digital ads and social media outreach along with tapping into her vast Rolodex of donors. 

But Merrill said the California races in particular are going to be “won on local issues” by talking to the voters about the records of the incumbents. 

“I think it would be a mistake for any campaign to nationalize these elections,” she added. “It can’t be about Trump or the 2016 election. It’s gotta be about these local issues.” 

Merrill said she expects Clinton to remain “an active part” of the Democratic Party. 

“I imagine she’ll only continue that level of activity,” she said.