On Tuesday, Hillary Clinton was asked whether she might – still – run for president in 2020. Here’s part of how she responded:
“I, as I say, never, never, never say never, and I will certainly tell you I am under enormous pressure from many, many, many people to think about it, but as of this moment sitting here in this studio, that is absolutely not in my plans.”
Which isn’t a “no!” Or even close!
Yes, yes, yes. We have all been down this road many times before with Clinton and the 2020 race. She has never, really, appeared to be seriously considering the race but she also always seems to stick her foot in the door to keep it slightly ajar as others try to close it on her.
Clinton is a pro at this stuff. So she knows that saying she is under “enormous pressure from many, many, many people to think about” making a (very) late entrance into the 2020 race isn’t a “no, I will not run.” Nor is saying “as of this moment sitting here in this studio, that is absolutely not in my plans.”
That’s like me, when asked whether I would like to eat an entire pizza for lunch, saying, “Right now, as I sit here at 8:30 a.m., eating an entire pizza is absolutely not in my plans.” Doesn’t mean it won’t be later! [narrator voice: It will be later.]
Which begs the question: What actually gives?
Let’s start here: I don’t think she is actually planning any sort of last-minute entry into the 2020 race a la potentially former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg or former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick. If Clinton had been making calls and putting out feelers to donors and/or activists in places like Iowa or New Hampshire, we would have known about it by now. I truly do not think she is going to run for president again.
So, then, what’s she doing? A few ideas:
1. There are still plenty of people – I’m sure – who tell Clinton the race, the party and the country need her. By keeping her toe ever so slightly in the water, it shows those supporters that she’s not entirely ignoring them.
2. Clinton and her daughter, Chelsea, are in the midst of a book tour selling “The Book of Gutsy Women.” This interview – with BBC radio – was part of that book tour. What better way to gin up some sales – and, more generally, interest – than to keep open the possibility of a last-minute entrance into the presidential race?
3. Clinton has made clear, repeatedly, that she wants to remain a relevant voice in the national conversation. The best way to do that – at least until filing deadlines close and it’s clear she won’t run – is to preserve the prospect that Clinton might wind up as a late entrant into the presidential race.
Again, let’s be crystal clear here: There seems to be only an infinitesimal chance that Clinton will actually run for president in 2020. But keeping that door open for as long as she can (and that period likely ends Friday, when filing for the New Hampshire primary closes) is simply good business for the former secretary of state.