Former Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton has been showing up — at conferences, on streaming services, on Twitter, and now in chatter over whether her party’s problems create an opening for another White House bid. But not everyone is convinced it’s her moment.
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“People may feel that they want to have a woman and may feel that [Vice President Kamala] Harris isn’t electable, but I do not think she’d be a serious candidate,” said Dick Morris, a political strategist and commentator and former President Bill Clinton’s chief campaign adviser until 1996.
Morris, now a Republican, told the Washington Examiner that he does not see President Joe Biden on the ballot in 2024. “And I do not think they’ll run Harris either. I don’t think she can get the nomination,” he added.
Despite Biden’s repeated assurances that he intends to seek reelection, the president’s plummeting job approval numbers and increased skittishness over his age, as he will turn 82 the month he appears on a 2024 ballot, are turbocharging speculation — that, and the campaign-style events that former Democratic primary rivals are staking out across states early in the presidential nominating contest.
Harris is faring little better, present approval polls show. “Her ratings are even worse than his,” Morris said.
Approaching one year in office, Biden faces growing scrutiny over his handling of the economy, coronavirus, and immigration, a fraught issue into which Harris has been pulled, animating both left-liberal and centrist wings inside their party. Voters are concerned about rising crime and inflation. And in Washington, stalemate inside the caucus has stalled the president’s landmark social spending bill, threatening to upend major campaign promises.
Morris’s bleak assessment? “After they get wiped out in the by-elections, the party will turn on both of them and dismiss them as unelectable.”
Harris allies, concerned about the vice president’s prospects, have started raising the alarm. A slew of policy events, paired with a hefty media push, have helped shift the conversation away from the challenges inside her office.
“She has an uphill battle just in terms of coverage,” one California Democrat said, with scrutiny and expectations running high for Harris as the first black woman vice president. “Everybody wants this person to be perfect.”
Harris’s difficulties fundraising, which stymied her primary campaign in the 2020 election, remain a concern.
To what degree Biden and Harris are mulling this isn’t clear.
“I think the idea that they might not be renominated has not occurred to them. And if it does occur to them, they’re going to be largely helpless in the face of it,” Morris suggested. “Because for that idea to get currency, Biden would have to be so far in the tank that everybody would have to agree that he can’t be rescued.”
“That’s going to happen,” he added. “But I think it’ll take a while before they realize that.”
Speculation over who could then fill the president’s shoes is open season.
Clinton, despite a long-fostered relationship of mutual distrust with the media, has made numerous recent appearances, some stoking more attention than others.
A former secretary of state, Clinton took a tough line on Russia and China at a Bloomberg New Economy Forum, suggesting a need to stand up to each across a range of territorial and other issues. The Biden administration faces escalating challenges with both.
“Of course we should cooperate on a range of issues,” Clinton said, “but we also cannot permit the kind of aggressive military buildup, efforts to dominate maritime navigation, the intimidation of nations in the larger Asia-Pacific region.”
Where Clinton garnered significant recent attention, however, was the release of a clip of her reading the victory speech she had prepared to give on election night in 2016.
On the MasterClass streaming site, Clinton read aloud the victory speech she would have delivered had she defeated Republican nominee Donald Trump. Today previewed the excerpt, paired with an hourlong sit-down with NBC’s Willie Geist.
As John Ellis recently put it, “Hillary Clinton has been busy of late establishing ‘first-mover advantage.’”
Democrats are balking at the prospect.
“There’s no appetite. None. Zero. I love her to death, but no,” a former swing state Democratic Party chair, and Clinton surrogate in 2008, told the Washington Examiner. “You’ve got to win. Unfortunately, that ship has sailed.”
Clinton’s collapse against Trump in 2016, in a race the New York Times gave her an 85% chance of winning, has animated years of Democratic Party blame-shifting.
Some argue that even a whisper-thin Democratic Party bench and Trump’s defeat last year to Biden are not enough to resurrect Clinton’s political career, conditions that have deteriorated for her.
“And I think it’s less favorable for her than it was before,” the former party chair said.
Numerous former Clinton backers burst out laughing at the prospect of her return to the electoral fray.
“That is hilarious. I mean, I was a Hillary supporter. I continue to be. She’s doing fantastic things. But I think she understands that to move the party forward into something new, [there] needs to be new blood,” said one liberal 2020 campaign operative.
Others did not dismiss Clinton entirely.
“When you’re somebody who has the experience that Hillary Clinton has, you never write [yourself] off, at any given time or any given age,” said David Ramadan, an adjunct professor at the Schar School at George Mason University and resident scholar at the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics. “That said, I don’t think the public is ready to welcome back Hillary Clinton on the left side, just like the public is probably not ready to welcome back a Bush on the Republican side.”
“There is certain name fatigue among the electorate on both sides of the aisle, which makes it very unlikely for somebody like Hillary to run, and certainly to win.”
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As Clinton keeps her options open, most aren’t sure what to make of her smattering of appearances.
“I will never be out of the game of politics,” Clinton told ABC in October. “I’m not going to be running for anything,” she said, adding that “our democracy is at stake.”
Trump’s return atop a Republican ticket is just one animating factor.
“I think that could be the end of our democracy,” Clinton told Geist. “Not to be too pointed about it, but I want people to understand that this is a make-or-break point.”