Clinton mulls role in 2018 midterms

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Hillary Clinton has all but avoided appearing at campaign events since her stunning 2016 loss, but some Democrats believe she would be a welcome voice in the 2018 midterms.

Despite polling that shows Clinton with low favorability ratings, they say the former secretary of State could help Democratic candidates in congressional districts she won last year.

“For me, it’s a no-brainer,” former Rep. Steve Israel (D-N.Y.), the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee chairman during the 2012 and 2014 election cycles, said in an interview.

{mosads}“If she’s willing to go into those districts she won, she would be extraordinarily helpful,” he said.

“Trump’s numbers have only fallen in those districts, so you start there. It would be such a loss if she sat it out and a double loss if she didn’t go into those districts.” 

Clinton confidants — who have spoken to the former Democratic nominee about the topic in recent months — are aware of the potential pitfalls should Clinton choose to hit the campaign trail. Clinton herself, they say, is aware of the tightrope.

“She’s the human personification of what the split in the country is,” said one Clinton friend. “And look, she understands what that means and what that means for her. She’s very attuned to what’s going on. She’s not confused about it. She has some people pulling on her to be involved and others who are saying, ‘maybe not.'”

Since the election, President Trump has fixated on Clinton, using his formal rival as a foil to rally his base. He frequently mentions her at campaign-style rallies and has written about her nearly a dozen times in the last two months on his Twitter account.

“Many people in our country are asking what the ‘Justice’ Department is going to do about the fact that totally Crooked Hillary, AFTER receiving a subpoena from the United States Congress, deleted and ‘acid washed’ 33,000 emails?” he tweeted earlier this month. “No justice!” 

Some expect that the GOP will continue to make Clinton a major part of the 2018 cycle. 

“They will continue to talk about Hillary Clinton because it’s better than talking about the deeply unpopular president,” said Julian Zelizer, a professor of history and public affairs at Princeton University. “She offers a political villain of sorts to help generate the kind of turnout that might otherwise be lacking.”  

Those close to Clinton say she has spent recent weeks gearing up toward 2018 and preparing for the next phase of her political group “Onward Together.”

The group has already donated $100,000 to the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, sources tell The Hill. 

“She’s very supportive of what they’re doing,” one source said. 

Those who have spoken to Clinton say she’s fielding requests and deciding how to best wade into 2018 waters. “Has she gotten a lot of asks? Yeah,” one longtime Clinton ally said. “… I don’t see a scenario where she’s not doing anything publicly.”

Still, the ally acknowledged that Clinton will pick her spots if she hits the trail.

“Obviously, there’s a huge difference between Alabama and Darrell Issa’s [R-Calif.] district,” the ally said.

House Democrats appear largely ready to turn the page and forge their own identity.

A Gallup survey released on Tuesday showed that Clinton’s favorability rating had dropped to 36 percent. 

While many lawmakers said Clinton could be a valuable asset in certain individual districts next year, there also seems to be a growing sentiment that, on the national level, she could be a detriment — both for carrying the baggage of past controversy and representing a bygone era from which the party wants to transcend. If she plays a role in 2018, these voices said, it should be limited.

“Clinton can be helpful, but not a force. I mean, we’ve got to redefine ourselves and do our own work,” said Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vt.). 

“She’s respected for what she’s accomplished, but I think there’s a broad awareness that we’ve got to figure out our own future. We can’t depend on leaders who have served us in the past.”

Welch said the question of whether to utilize Clinton on the trail is ultimately “a tactical choice” facing each Democratic candidate. But he also expressed some concern that, even if Clinton stuck to districts where she’s popular, it could churn national headlines and allow the Republicans to make hers the face of the Democratic Party.

“The campaign is going to be about the future, and she has such a long history with her own record, that with the persuadable voters there’s a good chance that she raises the questions that followed her into the last campaign,” Welch said. 

“We’ve got to have a fresh start. There’s just no question about that.”

Not all Democrats were so critical. Former Rep. Nick Rahall, a Blue Dog Democrat from West Virginia, said Clinton would be an asset in districts she won — regardless of which party holds the seat in the House.

“The other side will try to make it an issue nationwide, but she could benefit that particular candidate in the district that she carried — of course,” said Rahall, who was roaming the halls of the Capitol on Tuesday. “And where there are some vulnerable Republicans in districts that she carried, she can be a big difference there.”

Rahall emphasized that Clinton would be no help to the Democrats in his home state.

“You’re talking about the West Virginia perspective? Please,” he said with a laugh. “I love the lady, I was all for her and she’s still a voice in our party, but as far as in West Virginia: no, no.”

Tags 2022 midterm elections Darrell Issa Democratic Party Donald Trump Hillary Clinton Hillary Clinton Nick Rahall Nick Rahall Peter Welch

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