Clinton backers say she won’t be Dem pick for 2020 nomination

Democratic lawmakers who strongly backed Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonThe road not taken: Another FBI failure involving the Clintons surfaces DHS cyber agency to prioritize election security, Chinese threats ABC chose a debate moderator who hates Trump MORE in 2016 say they are confident she won’t be their party’s nominee in 2020. 

Over the last couple of months, Clinton hasn’t publicly ruled out another White House bid — which has startled some Democrats. 

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Clinton quickly locked down support of most of the Democratic establishment in the 2016 election cycle and enjoyed nearly unanimous support among Democrats on Capitol Hill, but former allies warn that support has mostly evaporated. Clinton, who won more of the popular vote than President TrumpDonald John TrumpThe Hill's Campaign Report: Democratic field begins to shrink ahead of critical stretch To ward off recession, Trump should keep his mouth and smartphone shut Trump: 'Who is our bigger enemy,' Fed chief or Chinese leader? MORE and would be viewed as one of the most qualified candidates in the field if she ran, has told friends that she is not closing the door on a 2020 run, according to a report from veteran CNN reporter Jeff Zeleny over the weekend. 

In October, Clinton said, “I’d like to be president.” After being pressed on whether she was seriously considering a bid, Clinton responded like other possible 2020 candidates — “I’m not even going to think about it until we get through this [midterm] election.” 

Democratic lawmakers, however, are skeptical that Clinton will launch a third presidential bid.  

“I haven’t heard a serious suggestion from her or her husband about that. but I think there are plenty of candidates. I think her time has passed,” said Senate Democratic Whip Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinSenate Democrats push Trump to permanently shutter migrant detention facility House panel investigating decision to resume federal executions To combat domestic terrorism, Congress must equip law enforcement to fight rise in white supremacist attacks MORE (Ill.), who endorsed Clinton in 2016. “She can do what she wishes, but I would hope that we would look for a new candidate.”

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Sen. Martin HeinrichMartin Trevor HeinrichOvernight Defense: Dems talk Afghanistan, nukes at Detroit debate | Senate panel advances Hyten nomination | Iranian foreign minister hit with sanctions | Senate confirms UN ambassador Senate committee advances nomination of general accused of sexual assault House passes bill requiring CBP to enact safety, hygiene standards MORE (D-N.M.) said “it’s time to let a new generation of leadership rise.”

“We have great options,” he said of younger-generation Democrats who are making presidential runs, such as Sens. Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisGabbard hits DNC over poll criteria for debates The Hill's Campaign Report: Democratic field begins to shrink ahead of critical stretch Gabbard, Steyer inch toward making third Democratic debate MORE (Calif.) and Kirsten GillibrandKirsten Elizabeth GillibrandThe Hill's Campaign Report: Democratic field begins to shrink ahead of critical stretch Gabbard, Steyer inch toward making third Democratic debate Gillibrand unveils mental health plan MORE (N.Y.), or eyeing them, like Sen. Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerGabbard hits DNC over poll criteria for debates The Hill's Campaign Report: Democratic field begins to shrink ahead of critical stretch Gabbard, Steyer inch toward making third Democratic debate MORE (N.J.) and former Rep. Beto O’Rourke (Texas), among many others. 

“I’m excited by the number of fresh faces we have who are looking at 2020,” he added.  

Sen. Jon TesterJonathan (Jon) TesterNative American advocates question 2020 Democrats' commitment House Democrats targeting six more Trump districts for 2020 Budget deal sparks scramble to prevent shutdown MORE (D-Mont.), who also endorsed Clinton in 2016 as “the most qualified person on the ballot to unite our nation,” warned the environment will be much different in 2020.  

“Is she running as a Democrat or is she going to go the coffee man’s way,” he joked, referring to former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz, who has come under intense fire from Democrats for announcing that he is considering running in 2020 as an independent candidate. 

Tester cautioned “it will be clear” that Clinton’s “viability” will be “different than it was four years ago. ... It’s just tough.”

Other Democrats say it’s a free country and that Clinton is within her right to run again. 

Sen. Jeff MerkleyJeffrey (Jeff) Alan MerkleyDemocratic senator and top Trump immigration official argue over asylum claims on Twitter Senate Democrats push Trump to permanently shutter migrant detention facility Senate Dem seeks answers from DHS on reports of pregnant asylum seekers sent back to Mexico MORE (D-Ore.), who backed Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersGabbard hits DNC over poll criteria for debates The Hill's Campaign Report: Democratic field begins to shrink ahead of critical stretch Keystone XL Pipeline gets nod from Nebraska Supreme Court MORE (I-Vt.) in the 2016 Democratic primary, said “anybody who thinks they have a role to play in the 2020 conversation should consider being part of it.”
Gillibrand, who announced her own presidential campaign earlier this month, said, “I think anybody who wants to run should run.” 

Privately, Democratic senators say nominating Clinton in 2020 would be a big mistake because of her high unfavorable rating after decades of battling the Republican Party. More voters backed Trump in 2016 because they disliked Clinton than vice versa, according to exit polling of the race.

“Last time we all picked arguably the worst candidate we could have picked,” said one Democratic senator who requested anonymity, admitting that party leaders underestimated Clinton’s negatives ahead of the contest with Trump. 

A second Democratic senator who requested anonymity to discuss Clinton’s prospects frankly warned that “the Clintons have a lot of baggage.”

“I can’t believe there would be much support in the party,” the lawmaker added. But the source speculated the CNN report “is probably true” that Clinton is still harboring White House ambitions because “she’s kind of throwing her name out.”
Clinton has defended women candidates and helped lead the pushback against punditry assessing the “likability of female candidates.” Promoting a bill protecting reproductive rights at an event in Albany, N.Y., earlier this month, Clinton noted, “There’s been a lot of talk recently about whether our country is ready for women leaders.” In November, she argued that loose border control has fueled right-wing politics in Europe, warning in an interview with The Guardian that “if we don’t deal with the migration issue it will continue to roil the body politic.” 

A spokesman for Clinton did not respond to a request for comment and two former advisers to her 2016 campaign did not respond to messages.

Some Democratic aides on Capitol Hill say they are confident that Clinton won’t run in 2020 and point to efforts by former Clinton advisers to knock down the CNN report that she’s considering another White House bid. 

NBC’s Alex Seitz-Wald reported Monday that “people close” to Clinton “are downplaying” her willingness to run another race and cited a “source close to Clinton” who said it “seems like supportive chatter from people and not much more than that.” 

Neera Tanden, a longtime senior Clinton adviser, said rumors of Clinton’s interest in returning to politics often serve as nothing more than a mean-spirited excuse to bash her. “Every few months, someone whispers to a reporter that Hillary has not signed in blood that she won’t run and we get this media swarm which is an opportunity to drag her,” she tweeted Monday. Tanden did not respond to a request for comment. 

But another former Clinton adviser, Doug Schoen, backed up CNN’s report from the weekend during an appearance on Fox Nation’s “Liberty File.” 

Asked about Clinton keeping her options open for another presidential run, he said, “I think that’s been her position for a while.” He claims that Clinton could have a path to victory if the Democratic electorate is fractured among a wide field of candidates. 

“Her thinking … very simply is if you have 10 or 15 candidates, she can get a minority of the vote. Win a substantial number of minorities, arguably, and get the nomination that way and have another rematch with Donald Trump,” Schoen said. 
Mark Penn, who served as Clinton’s chief pollster in the 2008 presidential election, predicted in a Wall Street Journal op-ed published on Nov. 11 that “Hillary will run again.” 

“More than 30 years in the making, this new version of Mrs. Clinton, when she runs for president in 2020, will come full circle — back to the universal-health-care-promoting progressive firebrand of 1994,” he wrote in the piece co-authored with former Manhattan Borough President Andrew Stein.

“True to her name, Mrs. Clinton will fight this out until the last dog dies. She won’t let a little thing like two stunning defeats stand in the way of her claim to the White House,” he predicted. 

But that vision isn’t shared by many of her former supporters on Capitol Hill. They say they’re ready for a new batch of leaders. 

“We’re going to have lots of great candidates, lots of new ideas, lots of people getting involved and that’s a good thing for the party,” said Sen. Jeanne ShaheenCynthia (Jeanne) Jeanne ShaheenSunday shows - Recession fears dominate Lewandowski on potential NH Senate run: If I run, 'I'm going to win' Lewandowski says he's 'happy' to testify before House panel MORE (D), whose home state of New Hampshire hosts the nation’s first primary next year.