Never say never, according to sources close to Hillary Clinton when asked about whether the former Secretary of State is considering launching a 2020 presidential campaign. Various news outlets have been reporting over the weekend that Hillary has not entirely ruled out running again in 2020, perhaps waiting on the Mueller report to drop in the hopes that voters may feel the election was somehow stolen from her and want to give her another shot at it.
CNN reports on the Hillary rumors making their way around the DC beltway:
Hillary Clinton may not be ready to give up on her Oval Office dreams, CNN’s Jeff Zeleny reports.
“Clinton is telling people that she’s not closing the doors to the idea of running in 2020,” Zeleny said. “I’m told by three people that as recently as this week, she was telling people that look, given all this news from the indictments, particularly the Roger Stone indictment, she talked to several people, saying ‘look, I’m not closing the doors to this.'”
Still, Zeleny said, “it does not mean that there’s a campaign-in-waiting, or a plan in the works.” And one close Clinton friend told Zeleny “it would surprise me greatly if she actually did it.”
“Most losing presidential candidates never totally close the doors to running for president” again, Zeleny said. “But I think we have to at least leave our mind open to the possibility that she is still talking about it. She wants to take on Trump. Could she win a Democratic primary to do it? I don’t know the answer to that.”
The landscape on the Democratic side in 2020 will not even remotely resemble the small slate of candidates who ran in 2016. In fact, the Democratic field was so small on the Democratic side that the first 2016 Democratic primary debate consisted of exactly five candidates. Compare that to this time around when we could see as many as 20 legitimate campaigns.
If Hillary did decide to move forward with a campaign in 2020, it would certainly complicate things for the rest of the field. Do they spend their time attacking her for ignoring white working class voters in the Midwest or do they point out that she already failed once against Donald Trump in 2016 and Democrats can’t risk that chance she’ll lose again?
Hillary might have some familiar company on the trail if she took the plunge. Reports over the weekend also indicate that Bernie Sanders, the cantankerous self-described democratic socialist from Vermont is just about ready to announce a 2020 presidential campaign:
Two sources with direct knowledge of his plans told Yahoo News that Sanders, an independent and self-described “democratic socialist,” plans to announce his presidential bid imminently. While Sanders has been considering a bid for months, one of the sources said he was emboldened by early polls of the race that have consistently showed him as one of the top candidates in a crowded Democratic primary field. In particular, the source said Sanders was heartened to see numbers indicating he is one of the leading candidates among African American and Latino voters, two groups he was perceived as struggling with in 2016.
It’s likely that Bernie will launch a campaign in the coming days. As the Yahoo News article notes, his polling numbers are so high among Democratic primary voters that he’d be crazy not to give it another shot.
However, as with Hillary’s potential bid, the 2020 field will not be as friendly to Bernie as the 2016 field was. There are plenty of others who will be running in the deep progressive lane with him, like Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren, for example. Democrats may decide that they like a lot of Bernie’s platform, but maybe they could get that same platform in a younger, more attractive package.
Bernie vs. Hillary 2.0
This scenario would probably be considered a disaster on the Democratic side if it came down to these two candidates again. It’s highly unlikely given the literal buffet of options, but the possibility does exist.
Let’s say, for example, that the Democratic field is splintered and none of the young guns gain traction. Could Hillary, who would likely command one-quarter of primary voters, pull out some small victories along with Bernie? The only path for Hillary to make it far into the primary season and eventually have a shot at the 2020 nomination is if none of the other candidates seem credible enough to fight a national campaign. Hillary failed once in 2016, but voters know she has national campaign experience, and perhaps with a better vice presidential nominee, she could stand a serious chance at unseating President Trump. After all, she did beat him in the popular vote.
The Hillary Endorsement
The other possibility is that stories which indicate Hillary has an interest in running are simply being dropped to keep her name relevant in Democratic politics. If she passes on 2020, which, I think, seems likely, candidates will want her endorsement. If she keeps dropping hints that she’s running, it may make them less inclined to go on the attack against her during the primary season.
The healthiest thing in the 2020 Democratic primary would be for Hillary Clinton to step aside and let the next generation take hold.