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Clinton 2020 whisper campaign hits new heights

 

Republicans just can’t quit Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonClintons remember former adviser Vernon Jordan Biden praises Vernon Jordan: He 'knew the soul of America' The parts of H.R. 1 you haven't heard about 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 TrumpSouth Carolina Senate adds firing squad as alternative execution method Ex-Trump aide Pierson won't run for Dallas-area House seat House Oversight panel reissues subpoena for Trump's accounting firm 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 GabbardTulsi 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 Growing number of House Republicans warm to proxy voting 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 Bloomberg'Lucky': How Warren took down Bloomberg Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson vs. Donald Trump: A serious comparison On The Trail: The political perils of Snowmageddon 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 BidenIntercept bureau chief: minimum wage was not 'high priority' for Biden in COVID-19 relief South Carolina Senate adds firing squad as alternative execution method Obama alum Seth Harris to serve as Biden labor adviser: report MORE and Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenOvernight Health Care: Biden says US will have enough vaccine for all adults by end of May | Biden calls on all states to vaccinate teachers by the end of March | Texas, Mississippi lift mask mandates Biden picks for financial agencies offer preview of regulatory agenda Becerra tells Warren he will do 'thorough review' of executive actions on drug prices 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 SandersIntercept bureau chief: minimum wage was not 'high priority' for Biden in COVID-19 relief Murkowski never told White House she would oppose Tanden Tanden withdraws nomination as Biden budget chief 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 BarrMajority of Republicans say 2020 election was invalid: poll Biden administration withdraws from Connecticut transgender athlete case Justice Department renews investigation into George Floyd's death: report MORE to investigate Clinton. 

“Anybody that is opposed to her is a Russian agent,” Trump said in the interview with Sean HannitySean Patrick HannityGrenell hints at potential California gubernatorial bid Cruz blames criticism of Cancun trip on media 'Trump withdrawal' The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by The AIDS Institute - Tanden's odds plummet to lead OMB MORE. “These people are sick. There’s something wrong with them.”