Clinton 2020 whisper campaign hits new heights

 

Republicans just can’t quit Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonCollins walks impeachment tightrope Hill.TV's Saagar Enjeti rips Sanders for 'inability to actually fight with bad actors' in party Hill.TV's Krystal Ball knocks Clinton's 'mean girl' comments against Sanders 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. 

ADVERTISEMENT

Stephen Bannon, the former adviser to President TrumpDonald John TrumpMnuchin knocks Greta Thunberg's activism: Study economics and then 'come back' to us The Hill's Morning Report - House prosecutes Trump as 'lawless,' 'corrupt' What to watch for on Day 3 of Senate impeachment trial 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 GabbardGabbard suing Clinton for defamation over 'Russian asset' comments Gabbard knocks Clinton's jab at Sanders: 'This isn't high school' The data is clear: A woman could win in 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 Rubens BloombergThe Hill's Morning Report - House prosecutes Trump as 'lawless,' 'corrupt' The US's digital future is being led by tech finance in New York Steyer spokesperson: 'I don't think necessarily that Tom has bought anything' 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.”

ADVERTISEMENT

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 BidenThe Hill's Morning Report - House prosecutes Trump as 'lawless,' 'corrupt' What to watch for on Day 3 of Senate impeachment trial Sanders wants one-on-one fight with Biden MORE and Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenTensions between McConnell and Schumer run high as trial gains momentum Sanders wants one-on-one fight with Biden Biden, Sanders tax plans would raise less revenue than claimed: studies 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 SandersThe Hill's Morning Report - House prosecutes Trump as 'lawless,' 'corrupt' Tensions between McConnell and Schumer run high as trial gains momentum Sanders wants one-on-one fight with Biden 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 BarrWilliam Pelham BarrLawmaker wants Chinese news outlet to register as foreign agent The Hill's Morning Report - Trump trial begins with clashes, concessions Barr wrote 2018 memo contradicting Trump's claim that abuse of power is not impeachable MORE to investigate Clinton. 

“Anybody that is opposed to her is a Russian agent,” Trump said in the interview with Sean HannitySean Patrick HannityHannity: 'Lunatic' Schiff 'the worst liar in all of politics' Hypocrisy is the currency of the realm for GOP in the age of Trump GOP threatens to weaponize impeachment witnesses amid standoff MORE. “These people are sick. There’s something wrong with them.”