Is this the “soft” declaration for Hillary Clinton’s bid for the 2020 Democratic nomination?
In an op-ed published by the Wall Street Journal Sunday night, two staunch Clinton family allies made what is perhaps the strongest case yet that the twice-defeated Democrat is licking her wounds and preparing for another bid for the presidency in 2020: “Don’t pay much attention to the “I won’t run” declarations” the op-ed authors write: Hillary “knows both Mr. Clinton and Mr. Obama declared they weren’t running, until they ran. She may even skip Iowa and enter the race later, but rest assured that, one way or another, Hillary 4.0 is on the way.“
Amusingly, the double-take-inducing headline “Hillary Will Run Again” confused more than a few people on twitter, who initially interpreted it as breaking news, and not mere speculation about the prospect for another Clinton campaign in 2020. Then again, given the authors’ close ties to the Clintons – Mark Penn was a pollster and senior adviser to Bill and Hillary Clinton from 1995 to 2008 and Bill Stein is a former Democratic Manhattan borough president and president of the NYC council – it’s fair to suspect that this could be an early trial balloon for a third presidential bid by the former first lady and secretary of state.
The column starts by recounting the various iterations of Hillary Clinton the candidate, from the staunch moderate who announced her bid for retiring NY Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s Senate seat in 1999 to the more progressive candidate who emerged in a much-derided video released in 2015 that saw her officially declaring her campaign.
It’s been quite a journey. In July 1999, Mrs. Clinton began her independent political career on retiring Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s farm in upstate New York. Her Senate platform included support for a balanced budget, the death penalty and incremental health-care reform. It was a decisive break from her early-1990s self. Hillary Clinton 2.0 was a moderate, building on the success of her communitarian “It Takes a Village” appeals and pledging to bring home the bacon for New York. She emphasized her religious background, voiced strong support for Israel, voted for the Iraq war, and took a hard line against Iran.
But Hillary 2.0 could not overcome Barack Obama, the instant press sensation. During the 2008 presidential campaign, Mrs. Clinton held fast to centrist positions that would have assured her victory in the general election. But progressive leaders and donors abandoned her for the antiwar Mr. Obama. Black voters who had been strong Clinton supporters in New York and Arkansas left her column to elect the first African-American president. History was made, but not by Mrs. Clinton. Though she won more delegates from Democratic primaries, activists in caucus states gave Mr. Obama, who had called her “likable enough,” the heartbreaking win.
Licking her wounds, Mrs. Clinton served as secretary of state while she planned her comeback. It was during this time that the more liberal Hillary 3.0 emerged. She believed she could never win a primary as a moderate, so she entered the 2016 primary as a progressive like Mr. Obama. Then she moved further left as Sen. Bernie Sanders came closer to derailing her nomination. This time she was able to contain her opponent’s support, crucially by bringing African-American voters into her camp.
Despite her embarrassing and unexpected loss to Trump, Clinton retains a 75% approval rating among Democrats, an unfinished mission to be the first female president, and a personal grudge against her one-time friend for inspiring all of those “lock her up” chants. This is why, if she does run again, Penn and Stein expect her to come out swinging.
Expect Hillary 4.0 to come out swinging. She has decisively to win those Iowa caucus-goers who have never warmed up to her. They will see her now as strong, partisan, left-leaning and all-Democrat—the one with the guts, experience and steely-eyed determination to defeat Mr. Trump. She has had two years to go over what she did wrong and how to take him on again.
Looking back upon modern America history, the template for what will hopefully be the final Clinton presidential bid (assuming Chelsea isn’t harboring any ambitions of her own for higher office) is undoubtedly Richard Nixon, who lost to JFK in 1960 only to stage a comeback 8 years later and defeat Hubert Humphrey for the big seat.
Richard Nixon came back from his loss to John F. Kennedy in 1960 and won the presidency in 1968. He will be the model for winning again. Mrs. Clinton won’t travel the country in a van with Huma Abedin this time, doing small events and retail politics. Instead she will enter through the front door, mobilizing the army of professional women behind her, leveraging her social networks, and raking in donations. She will hope to emerge as an unstoppable force to undo Mr. Trump, running on the #MeToo movement, universal health care and gun control. Proud and independent, this time she will sideline Bill and Mr. Obama, limiting their role to fundraising.
Instead of declaring early, Clinton will wait for the deluge of senators and governors from the party’s “new generation” to declare their own presidential bids, and allow them to squabble among themselves for a bit. She might even wait until after Iowa to declare. Undoubtedly, this morass of amateurs will be livid to see Clinton back in the race. But if the Democrats’ inept handling of the Kavanaugh confirmation fight and their overall ineffectual performance during the Trump era is any indication, Clinton will run the table.
The generation of Democrats who have been waiting to take over the party from the Clintons will be fuming that she is back and stealing their show. But they revealed themselves to be bungling amateurs in the Brett Kavanaugh nomination fight, with their laughable Spartacus moments. She will trounce them. Just as Mr. Trump cleared the field, Mrs. Clinton will take down rising Democratic stars like bowling pins. Mike Bloomberg will support her rather than run, and Joe Biden will never be able to take her on.
While Stein and Penn make some compelling points, ultimately, the most obvious reason to suspect that Hillary might run again is that, at 73 years old in November 2020, what difference will it make if she loses again?
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