Clinton 2020 whisper campaign hits new heights

 

Republicans just can’t quit Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonBiden releases plans to expand Medicare, forgive student debt The Memo: Sanders's influence endures as campaign ends The two infectious diseases spreading across America 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 John TrumpSanders says he wouldn't 'drop dead' if Trump decided on universal healthcare Overnight Health Care: Trump officials lay groundwork for May reopening | Democrats ramp up talks with Mnuchin on next relief deal | Fauci says death toll could be around 60,000 Hillicon Valley: State officials push for more election funds | Coronavirus surveillance concerns ramp up pressure for privacy bill | Senators warned not to use Zoom | Agencies ask FCC to revoke China Telecom's license 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 Gabbard20 House Dems call on Trump to issue two-week, nationwide shelter-in-place order The Hill's Morning Report — ,000,000,000,000: GOP unveils historic US rescue effort Gillibrand endorses Biden for president 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 BloombergThe Hill's Campaign Report: Biden faces tough task of uniting Democrats Sanders staffers will remain on campaign's health care plan through fall Former Clinton staffers invited to celebrate Sanders dropping out: report 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 BidenSteyer endorses Biden for president Sanders 2020 press secretary: Democratic leadership interested in 'corporate status quo' or 'they're planning to replace Joe' Biden joins calls to release racial breakdowns of coronavirus cases, deaths MORE and Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenSteyer endorses Biden for president Biden joins calls to release racial breakdowns of coronavirus cases, deaths The Hill's Campaign Report: Biden faces tough task of uniting Democrats 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 SandersSteyer endorses Biden for president Sanders says he wouldn't 'drop dead' if Trump decided on universal healthcare Sanders 2020 press secretary: Democratic leadership interested in 'corporate status quo' or 'they're planning to replace Joe' 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 BarrOvernight Health Care: Trump officials lay groundwork for May reopening | Democrats ramp up talks with Mnuchin on next relief deal | Fauci says death toll could be around 60,000 COVID-19 is no excuse for Attorney General Barr to skirt the rule of law Trump officials lay groundwork for May reopening MORE to investigate Clinton. 

“Anybody that is opposed to her is a Russian agent,” Trump said in the interview with Sean HannitySean Patrick HannityThe Hill's Coronavirus Report: Former Trump advisor Bossert says to test the well, not ill; Senate standoff on next relief bill Bill O'Reilly: Many of those dying from coronavirus 'were on their last legs anyway' The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Americans with COVID-19 immunity may lead US back to work MORE. “These people are sick. There’s something wrong with them.”