Even though she won’t make it on the November debate stage unless something changes before the deadline, Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard is still making waves in the Democratic primary. Earlier this month, she was fighting off attacks from former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton over accusations that Gabbard is a compromised “Russian asset” being used to wreak havoc among the primary. Now, Gabbard says she will not run for reelection to her current Congressional seat in Hawaii and will instead focus entirely on the Presidential election, fueling rumors she may be considering a third party independent run.
Gabbard says the move came as she decided she could serve her state and district better as President, not Congresswoman:
Democratic presidential candidate Tulsi Gabbard said Thursday that she will not run for re-election for her U.S. representative seat, saying she wants to focus on trying to secure her party’s nomination to challenge President Donald Trump.
Gabbard, who represents Hawaii, made the announcement in a video and email to supporters.
“I believe that I can best serve the people of Hawaii and our country as your president and commander-in-chief,” Gabbard said in the video.
Whether or not this sets Gabbard up as a 2020 spoiler for Democrats, the accusations were started by Hillary Clinton in recent days:
Hillary Clinton recently suggested that she believed Republicans were grooming one of the Democrats for a third-party candidacy. Clinton did not mention Gabbard by name but said she believes one candidate is “the favorite of the Russians.”
Asked if the former Secretary of State was referring to Gabbard, Clinton spokesman Nick Merrill said, “If the nesting doll fits…” He later tweeted that Clinton was referring to the GOP grooming Gabbard, not Russians.
Whether it’s accusations of Gabbard being used by Russians or Republicans, many in the Democratic Party establishment seem irritated by Gabbard’s presence on the debate stage and her voice in the process despite having served in the House of Representatives for over seven years as a Democrat.
Gabbard, of course, didn’t take the insults from Hillary lying down, tweeting back quite aggressively saying she former first lady should “step down from her thrown”:
Gabbard reacted by tweeting that Clinton is “the queen of warmongers, embodiment of corruption, and personification of the rot that sickened the Democratic Party for so long.”
What then, are we to make of Gabbard’s decision to give up her Congressional seat to focus on a primary race she’s very unlikely to win. Her poll numbers aren’t the worst, but she’s sitting at 1.3% on average among national Democratic primary polls.
For what it’s worth when asked, Gabbard says she has no intention to launch a third party bid, according to local Hawaii media:
The Hawaii congresswoman was a featured guest at the event and fielded a series of questions from Kristen Bellstrom, an editor for Fortune Magazine, who asked Gabbard about weighty topics ranging from the ongoing conflict in Syria and her 2017 visit with Bashar al-Assad, to the ongoing impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump.
“Is there any scenario in which you would run as a third party candidate in 2020?” Bellstrom asked.
“No,” Gabbard responded before repeating herself. “No.”
“OK,” Bellstrom said. “Pretty clear.”
That is pretty clear, especially for a politician. Usually, they’ll use phrases such as “not currently” when asked if they are running for a higher office. That leaves the door open to changing that answer in the future.
Gabbard asserts there is no scenario where she would run as a third party candidate launching an independent run, for now.
Perhaps the suspicion with Gabbard can be viewed through the lens of the Democratic Primary, which is “primed for a dark horse,” according to Brian Rosenwald writing at The Week:
There are only two certainties about the Democratic primary.
First, that it’s still very early, which means that if history is any indicator, there’s plenty of time for a dark horse to end up the nominee. And second, that the top three candidates in the race — Elizabeth Warren, Joe Biden, and Bernie Sanders — have unique weaknesses that past frontrunners did not.
That means there is still an opportunity for someone else to catch fire, and the current trio of frontrunners gives us unique reason to think it will happen.
All three frontrunners would be the oldest president ever sworn in on Inauguration Day. And two of them, Biden and Sanders, have given voters reason to worry about their age. Biden’s fumbling debate and campaign performances have fueled concerns about his cognitive capacity and his ability to handle the presidency, while Sanders had a heart attack while campaigning.
Rosenwald argues that it would be a candidate like Booker, Buttigieg, or Klobuchar that might catch fire if the front runners falter, or another candidate entering the race, he doesn’t even mention Gabbard. That’s likely because, among Democrats, Gabbard hasn’t gained any traction in the primary, which means her only real option to continue running the race would be as a third party candidate down the stretch.
Perhaps she’s angling for something else, a TV analyst spot, or a Fox News contributor position, which is why she knows she won’t need her Congressional job any longer beyond next year.
Whatever the case may be, Gabbard has cleared her electoral calendar which leaves the door wide open for a third party independent run, if she decides to pull the trigger.