Is Hillary Clinton angling to become vice president?
A number of people in politics, the media and elsewhere are openly speculating that if Democrats wind up with a “brokered convention,” with no strong or viable nominee evident, Hillary Clinton might enter the arena as the “savior” who could unite the delegates and go on to defeat President Donald Trump.
Clinton herself seemed to throw shade at that theory during an interview with Variety at the Sundance Film Festival. When asked about the “urge” to beat Trump, the former Democratic nominee said, “Yeah. I certainly feel the urge because I feel the 2016 election was a really odd time and an odd outcome. And the more we learn, the more that seems to be the case. But I’m going to support the people who are running now and do everything I can to help elect the Democratic nominee.”
Several politically savvy Democrats have told me that “everything” may be a much more plausible and powerful scenario.
That is, Clinton and/or her team could be negotiating with former Vice President Joe Biden, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg or the last candidate standing to join the ticket as vice president. She would add the gravitas, delegates and, eventually, millions of votes needed to get them over the finish line on Nov. 5. I am assured that Clinton is on every shortlist for that position.
If I were in Trump’s world, this scenario would send chills down my spine.
There is no doubt that the former first lady, New York senator and secretary of State once again is raising her profile and stepping back into the spotlight to reengage in political discussions.
One such spotlight was provided by the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah. There, aside from commenting on her presidential “urge,” Clinton not only promoted the incredibly flattering four-part Hulu documentary about her, titled “Hillary” — which premiered, coincidently, just 10 days before the Iowa caucus — but she also attended the debut of a documentary about the murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi.
The first event was tailor-made to allow her to shine. The other gave her a timely platform to bash President Trump on a number of topics.
More than raising her profile, Clinton is getting her political hardball muscles back into shape by sneaking in a few spring training innings. She hit the surging Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) with a line drive straight to his likability, electability and “not-a-team-player” soft spot. Then she worked over the umpires a bit by going after Facebook, its founder and the platform’s predicted influence on the 2020 election.
The intended message seemed to be “I’m tough, I’m proven, I’ve got the massive support to help beat Trump — and I’ve learned from my mistakes.”
If she truly has learned something, then having Clinton entertain the thought of “saving” the Democratic ticket as a vice presidential running mate could be a brilliant political move. Some of her closest allies have been appointed to the committees overseeing rules and party platforms for this summer’s Democratic National Convention.
Biden, still nominally the party’s front-runner, has a list of negative issues to overcome. Clinton could help him erase or mitigate all of them, in one way or another.
Bloomberg, though a former three-term mayor of New York City, is a political neophyte on the national stage and would benefit greatly by having Clinton — and her machine — at his side.
Beyond that, there is an ultra-positive X factor that Clinton would bring to the 2020 presidential election equation: Bill Clinton. Like him or not, approve of him or not, the former president retains one of the best political minds in the nation and would be a formidable tactician.
The obvious question in all this is: Given her ego, would Hillary Clinton settle for being vice president when she twice was within striking distance of being president? The answer, I’m told, is an emphatic yes. The main reason are as follows.
First, and most pressing, she wants to avenge her embarrassing loss to Trump in 2016. Becoming the running mate of the Democratic nominee would give her carte blanche to hammer the president from one corner of the nation to the other. It’s an assignment she clearly would relish.
Second, she still has a burning desire to make history by attaining a political “first.” If she were the nation’s first female vice president, then she could check that box — and it’s a title no one could ever take from her.
Third, I’m told that Clinton simply is not ready to “ride off into the sunset” and believes she still can make a positive difference, especially for women.
But most of all, her reasons are personal — with the wounds of 2016 still open.
In October, President Trump rubbed salt into those wounds when he goaded Clinton to enter the 2020 race via a tweet: “I think that Crooked Hillary Clinton should enter the race to try and steal it away from Uber Left Elizabeth Warren.”
Clinton immediately fired back on “PBS NewsHour”: “So maybe there does need to be a rematch. Obviously, I can beat him again.” That last word — “again” — referenced her popular vote count from 2016, and it is a fun and effective debate point, to be sure. Still, he — not she — is the president.
But now, there is a new dynamic in play. Clinton arguably could greatly bolster the Democratic ticket as the vice presidential nominee. Knowing that, if I were on Team Trump, I would refrain from poking the tiger and setting off her supporters. The president’s team would be wise to remember that politicians, like athletes, often do better the second time they face an opponent.
Douglas MacKinnon, a political and communications consultant, was a writer in the White House for Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, and former special assistant for policy and communications at the Pentagon during the last three years of the Bush administration.