Hillary Clinton is not running for president for a third time in 2020.
That sentence is, I believe, accurate. And will remain accurate over the next 14 months.
That said — and, yes, there is a “that said” here — Clinton has said several things publicly of late that give me some pause.
Then in an interview with PBS’ Judy Woodruff, Clinton said this in response to a question about Trump’s urging her to run again: “So maybe there does need to be a re-match. I mean, obviously I can beat him again.” (Woodruff noted via Twitter that Clinton added that she was joking.)
Those comments come just a few weeks after Clinton drew tons of media attention by referring to Trump as a “corrupt human tornado” in an interview with CBS. In that same interview, she said this of the 2016 and 2020 campaigns: “I believe that, look there were many funny things that happened in my election that will not happen again. And I’m hoping that both the public and press understand the way Trump plays the game.”
All of that follows the emergence of Clinton as one of the most high-profile — and effective — Twitter trolls of Trump. She (or whoever is running her account) regularly jabs Trump and mocks him, moves that have won her lots and lots of kudos from the liberal side of the social media world. And remember, Clinton has been around politics a long time. She knows what she’s doing when she makes these jokes.
Now. None of that adds up to mean that Clinton is even considering a run for president.
Back in January, CNN reported that Clinton had not totally closed the door on running for president in 2020. In March, Clinton addressed that chatter.
“I’m not running, but I’m going to keep on working and speaking and standing up for what I believe,” she told CNN affiliate News 12 Westchester in New York. “I want to be sure that people understand I’m going to keep speaking out. I’m not going anywhere.”
That statement, broadly understood, could explain what Clinton has been doing over the past few weeks. She’s just speaking out as one of the most prominent Democratic politicians in the country. (The only Democrat more high-profile than Clinton is, probably, Barack Obama — and the former president has been very careful about when and why he is speaking out about Trump.)
Of course, there is always this fact to consider: Clinton would like to be president. And losing the White House to Trump — while winning the popular vote by almost 3 million — is not the sort of thing that she (or anyone) gets over.
All of that is to say that if Clinton could simply be named the Democratic nominee, she would probably do it. That is not how nomination fights work, though. And there are still 19 candidates running in the race, meaning that voters have a choice of every size, shape and ideological positioning they could want.
Could I dream up a scenario where Clinton gets floated as a compromise candidate at some point down the line? Sure. If Elizabeth Warren looks like the nominee — and jumpy Democratic establishment types worry she is too liberal to beat Trump — Clinton could well be someone they would look to as a trusted vote-getter.
But that’s a long, long, long, long shot that likely wouldn’t work anyway because the base of the party would rebel against the idea of trying to keep the nomination from Warren.
In short: Hillary Clinton’s jokes about running for president in 2020 are just that: Jokes. At least, I think.