Of course, she’s thinking about running again. Why shouldn’t she, when Martin O’Malley, an asterisk in the last presidential contest, can boldly contemplate 2020?
Clinton can’t let go of 2016, and neither can President Trump. Last November’s winner still broods over how FBI Director James Comey “saved” the loser’s life by failing to charge her with any crime relating to her private e-mail server. Trump is also “very upset” that Amanda Knox voted for Clinton even though Trump supported her claim of innocence way back when Knox was charged with murder in Italy.
As Andrew Sullivan writes for New York magazine, Clinton blew it in many ways. As Sullivan also argues, there’s no reason to feel sorry for her — or, at least sorrier for her than any other presidential loser. But if you’re Clinton, there’s still reason to mull the could-have-been and replay the only-ifs enough to convince yourself there’s a scenario for redemption.
Sullivan dismisses Clinton’s popular vote victory of nearly 3 million over Trump as more evidence of the incompetence of her campaign. Yet, with a shift of some 77,000 votes in three states — she’s president. That’s a slightly smaller crowd than what it takes to fill Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wis.
Despite Trump’s bizarre musings, Comey did not help Clinton. He hurt her last July when he held a press conference to announce that while there would be no indictment, she was guilty of extreme carelessness regarding her e-mails. Eleven days before the election, he hurt her again when he sent a letter to Congress saying he was looking into newly discovered e-mails. Then, three days before the election, he kept the subject fresh in voters’ minds by announcing the case was finally closed.
Meanwhile, we now know that as of last July, the FBI had launched an investigation into possible interference by the Russians in the 2016 elections. But the voting public had no knowledge of that before Election Day. If Comey applies the same standard to Trump as he did to Clinton, the public should know more about that before the next presidential Election Day; during recent testimony before Congress, Comey confirmed an investigation into possible links between the Trump campaign and the Russian government. Fleshing out those details could help any Democrat running against Trump.
Filled with retreads, the early field of Democrats thinking about 2020 is itself an invitation to Clinton. O’Malley, the former governor of Maryland who dropped out of the 2016 primary race after a dismal showing in Iowa, has already booked a trip to New Hampshire. After expressing regrets over not running in 2016, Joe Biden is also bound for the Granite State. John Kerry, a failed presidential candidate and former secretary of state — just like Clinton — has not ruled out another White House run. There’s also Bernie Sanders, who will be pushing 80 by 2020. Elizabeth Warren is also in the mix, but once you get past ardent fans on the left, the Massachusetts senator could have a bigger likability problem than Clinton.
A rematch must be tempting to Clinton, given Trump’s assault on health care, immigrants, civil rights, and environmental protections, not to mention his flip-flops on foreign policy. Trump knows it too. As he watches Clinton emerge from the woods of Chappaqua, he’s back to calling her “crooked Hillary.” But next time around, he will be judged on his record, not his rhetoric. That’s enough to make Clinton think about his vulnerabilities and forget about her own.
The press will remind her. But nothing is far-fetched. Not after Trump.
Joan Vennochi can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @Joan_Vennochi.