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Clinton 2020 whisper campaign hits new heights

 

Republicans just can’t quit Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonWhy does Bernie Sanders want to quash Elon Musk's dreams? Republican legislators target private sector election grants How Democrats can defy the odds in 2022 MORE

In recent weeks, as Clinton has made the rounds to promote a new book, the rumors have come fast and furious from the GOP: She's running for president again. 

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Stephen Bannon, the former adviser to President TrumpDonald TrumpTrump mocks Murkowski, Cheney election chances Race debate grips Congress US reentry to Paris agreement adds momentum to cities' sustainability efforts MORE, was one of the first to promote the idea of another Clinton run. 

“She is running,” Bannon said on Fox Business earlier this month. “She's just trying to decide how to fit her way in.”

The whisper campaign, potentially setting up a rematch between Trump and Clinton, has been going strong ever since. 

“Is Hillary Clinton secretly planning to run in 2020?” writer Michael Goodwin wondered in the conservative New York Post. 

“Hillary Clinton is up to something,” Goodwin wrote in July. “Five times in the last month alone, she sent emails touting her super PAC’s role in combating President Trump.”

The narrative even made its way onto the Drudge Report with a banner headline on Tuesday. “Dem Halloween: Hillary Leaves Door Open.” (The accompanying photo showed Clinton in a witch hat.) 

The headline linked to a story in the right-wing American Mirror that said Clinton had not endorsed any of the Democratic candidates and “essentially described herself as the ideal candidate to take on Trump in 2020.”

Republicans — from members of Congress to strategists — seem convinced a Clinton 2020 candidacy is going to happen. 

They point to her recent appearances on late-night shows and her criticism of presidential hopeful Rep. Tulsi GabbardTulsi GabbardNew co-chairs named for congressional caucus for millennials Tulsi Gabbard blasts new House rules on gender neutral language as 'height of hypocrisy' A vaccine, a Burrito and more: 7 lighter, memorable moments from 2020 MORE (D-Hawaii) last week where she labeled the congresswoman “a Russian asset.” 

“Why else would she be out there as much as she is?” one strategist told The Hill. “I can’t open up a news site without reading about something she’s said.” 

But the talk of a Clinton candidacy seems to largely be a fantasy, and people in her orbit say there’s simply no truth to the rumors. 

“It’s Bannon-created,” said Philippe Reines, Clinton's longtime communications adviser. “What his ratio is between honest belief and troublemaking is hard to know. Obviously though he doesn’t have any sources.”

Clinton allies scoff at the idea that she could be a late entry to the race. 

“The Republican Party has made such a long-term investment in obsessing about Hillary Clinton that they literally can't stop,” said Tracy Sefl, who served as a surrogate to the Clinton campaign in 2016. 

“In some ways, she's all they know. She's the permanent Mad Libs subject matter of the GOP.” 

Several sources in Hillaryland say that in her heart of hearts, Clinton would love nothing more than to take on Trump again. 

“It would be the ultimate vindication,” one Clinton ally said. “Of course, she’s thought about it.” 

The source then quickly added: “But that doesn’t mean that she's running.”

Not all of the chatter is coming from the right, when it comes to talk of a Clinton run.

The New York Times also reported on Tuesday that Clinton and former New York City mayor Michael BloombergMichael BloombergHolder, Yates lead letter backing Biden pick for Civil Rights Division at DOJ The truth behind companies' 'net zero' climate commitments The strategy Biden needs to pass his infrastructure plan MORE have told people in recent conversations that they would join the Democratic primary “if they thought they could win.” But they were “skeptical there would be an opening.”

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Since losing the election in 2016, some Democrats have said there isn’t room for Clinton in a party that is trying to move forward after a stunning defeat. 

Clinton has taken an active role in the party’s rebuilding with fundraising and assistance to candidates in the midterm elections. Clinton has also served as a sounding board for many candidates, including former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenHouse panel approves bill to set up commission on reparations Democrats to offer bill to expand Supreme Court Former Israeli prime minister advises Iran to 'cool down' amid nuclear threats MORE and Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenForgiving K in school loans would free 36 million student borrowers from debt: data IRS chief warns of unpaid taxes hitting trillion Biden sparks bipartisan backlash on Afghanistan withdrawal  MORE (D-Mass.).

Democrats who are not enthralled by any of the candidates during this presidential cycle have looked to Clinton as an option. 

“I think people look at Joe Biden and they wonder if he’s a strong enough candidate and they look at Elizabeth Warren and Bernie SandersBernie SandersBernie Sanders says he disagrees with Tlaib's call for 'no more police' Briahna Joy Gray: IRS needs proper enforcement mechanisms to tax wealthy Biden sparks bipartisan backlash on Afghanistan withdrawal  MORE and think she’s too progressive and that’s why people are still looking elsewhere,” one Democratic donor said. 

And Clinton hasn’t exactly poured cold water on the storyline.

“She’s keeping herself in the headlines,” said Republican strategist John Feehery, who is also a columnist for The Hill. “She’s pretty active on Twitter.” 

The former secretary of State has been on a tour to promote “The Book of Gutsy Women: Favorite Stories of Courage and Resilience,” which she co-authored with daughter Chelsea Clinton. 

During a stop this weekend in Portland, Ore., when an audience member suggested that she should enter the presidential race, Clinton laughed it off. “Oh my, thank you!” she said. 

During an interview with “PBS NewsHour” earlier this month, Clinton appeared to egg Trump on, when she quipped, “Maybe there does need to be a rematch. Obviously, I can beat him again.” 

Trump has also kept his focus on Clinton, using her name as a tool to rally his base during press conferences, at campaign rallies and on Twitter. 

On Monday in an interview with Fox News, Trump said he’d like Attorney General William BarrBill BarrBoehner: Trump 'stepped all over their loyalty' by lying to followers Dominion: Ex-Michigan state senator 'sowing discord in our democracy' with election fraud claims Hunter Biden says he doesn't know if Delaware laptop was his MORE to investigate Clinton. 

“Anybody that is opposed to her is a Russian agent,” Trump said in the interview with Sean HannitySean Patrick HannityBoehner says he voted for Trump, didn't push back on election claims because he's retired Boehner: Trump 'stepped all over their loyalty' by lying to followers Boehner finally calls it as he sees it MORE. “These people are sick. There’s something wrong with them.”