It’s been the talk of the 2020 campaign trail this week.
Is 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton seriously mulling a third stab for the White House?
Clinton’s own comments and actions in recent weeks sparked the Washington buzz, fueling stories that she could possibly enter her party’s nomination race at this late date amid complaints from some Democratic Party insiders who view the current field of contenders too weak or progressive to take on President Trump next year.
Clinton even indirectly took aim at Trump on Friday during the nationally televised memorial service for the late Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland, who has vocally clashed with the president.
Comparing Cummings to the prophet Elijah, Clinton said to loud applause that “like that Old Testament prophet, he stood against corrupt leadership of King Ahab and Queen Jezebel."
Longtime top Clinton adviser Philippe Reines also fueled the flames, saying in interviews this week with Fox News’ Tucker Carlson and Dana Perino that his old boss had not closed the door on a 2020 bid.
He told Carlson Clinton hasn't closed the door to running, saying she would "think about it long and hard" if she thought she had the best odds of beating Trump — while still calling the scenario unlikely.
“I think it’s somewhere between highly unlikely and zero but it’s not zero. I don’t know how to be more honest than that,” Reines said Thursday on Fox News' ‘Daily Briefing with Dana Perino.’
“To the extent that I talk to her about the race and just in general what she’s up to, I do think she’s been looking and watching wistfully, which is totally understandable given the race she went through in 2016,” Reines said.
The former first lady, senator from New York and secretary of state, and the first major-party female presidential nominee, has essentially remained in the spotlight ever since losing the 2016 election to Trump — yet winning the national popular vote.
But her comments and actions in recent weeks have elevated her relevance in the 2020 campaign to a new level, renewing questions about her role in the race for the White House and sparking some speculation that she still has presidential ambitions despite past claims to the contrary.
The latest episodes include Clinton tweeting “Don’t tempt me” in response to Trump's suggestion about running in 2020; mocking Trump’s interactions with foreign leaders; and arguing without evidence that Democratic presidential candidate Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii is a “Russian asset” — a swipe that injected her into the 2020 primary battle, even from the sidelines.
A top aide downplayed the 2020 speculation, however.
“The short of it is that she’s on a book tour and is feeling unconstrained about speaking her mind,” longtime Clinton spokesman Nick Merrill told Fox News earlier this week. “It’s easy to over-ascribe a strategy about every word she utters, but it’s as simple as that. She’s out there telling the truth.”
But the story went viral on Tuesday, with a New York Times report that Clinton in recent weeks stated she would declare her candidacy if she were certain she would win the race.
The article, headlined “Anxious Democratic Establishment Asks, ‘Is There Anybody Else?’,” noted that about a half-dozen Democratic donors gathered in New York City raised concerns whether former Vice President Joe Biden – a co-front-runner – could stand strong against Trump, and worried about his fundraising struggles and the need to defend his son Hunter Biden over business dealings in Ukraine amid the House impeachment inquiry into the president. Those gathered also said Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders were likely too liberal to win the general election.
An adviser close to the Biden world, who asked to remain anonymous to speak more freely, said the former vice president’s camp is not taking the media reports seriously and they continue to “move ahead.”
And in the crucial first primary state of New Hampshire, a top Democrat says concern with the field and a hunger for another candidate is not a topic of conversation that she's heard.
“I’ve heard nothing about people wishing someone else would get into the race,” said Kathy Sullivan, a longtime Democratic National Committee member and former New Hampshire Democratic party chair.
Sullivan, who backed Clinton in the 2008 and 2016 presidential campaigns, told Fox News, “I’m not taking this seriously. I love Hillary Clinton and I think she’d be a fantastic president but there is a lot of really good people running for president right now. I think it’s too late in the day for someone to get into the race. I don’t take it seriously and I don’t think it’s a good idea and we don’t need to have anyone else in the race right now.”
It is getting late in the game, especially in New Hampshire, where Nov. 15 is the last day for a candidate to file to get their name on the first-in-the-nation presidential primary ballot.
And a longtime Democratic veteran of over 10 New Hampshire primaries noted that “we’ve seen this before. It’s not an uncommon Democratic trait to long for someone who is not in the race. It’s like pre-buyer’s remorse. Shopper's remorse.”
Fox News' Danielle Wallace contributed to this report.