Clinton’s 2020 waffling presents challenge for Democrats

Hillary Clinton insists she doesn’t want to run for the White House again -- yet over the weekend, virtually in the same breath, seemed to leave that door open just a crack, saying she'd still “like to be president.”

The latest wavering on the possibility of a 2020 presidential bid -- something she ruled out last year -- poses fresh complications for the Democratic Party, which is brimming with potential candidates looking to take on President Trump the moment the midterms are over and more than a few figures worried Clinton's presence hinders their ability to move on from 2016.

Clinton’s latest comments came during an interview with Recode’s Kara Swisher at an event in New York City Friday. Swisher asked the former secretary of state if she wanted to run for president, to which Clinton responded after a pause: “No. No.”

“That was a pause,” Swisher said.

“Well, I’d like to be president,” Clinton responded. “I think, hopefully, when we have a Democrat in the Oval Office in January of 2021, there’s going to be so much work to be done.”

Her response got more interesting, as she then talked up her well-known credentials: “So the work would be work that I feel very well prepared for having been at the Senate for eight years, having been a diplomat in the State Department, and it’s just going to be a lot of heavy lifting.”

Whether she was pitching herself as a supporting player to a post-Trump Democratic president, or pitching herself as that president, was unclear. Asked whether she would be doing any of that “heavy lifting,” Clinton responded: “Oh I have no idea ... I’m not even going to think about it until we get through this Nov. 6 election about what’s going to happen after that, but I’m going to [do] everything in my power to make sure we have a Democrat in the White House come January of 2021.”

Clinton spokesman Nick Merrill pushed back on reports playing up the possibility of a 2020 Clinton run.

“This is not remotely what she said. When asked if she’d run she said 'No. (twice in fact),” Merrill tweeted.

Merrill reiterated that point when reached by Fox News on Monday.

“She did not say she wouldn’t rule out running. That’s flat out incorrect,” Merrill said in an email. “She said that she wouldn’t decide who to support until we get through the midterms.”

Swisher also said on Twitter that she took Clinton's response to mean "she was basically implying she wishes she were president but doesn’t relish running again." Her message to the political class: "Simmer down!"

Clinton did say “no” when asked whether she wants to run, backing up her comments last year that she is “done with being a candidate.” But it did not appear that Clinton was referring to which Democratic candidate she might support either.

'I believe everything she’s said and done all indicate one thing. She wants to run for office and she wants to run for the highest office in the land.'

— Democratic strategist Doug Schoen

Some of those who know Hillary Clinton say a third presidential run is not out of the question.

“Hillary Clinton has been all over the lot lately. She said first, we can’t be civil with a political party trying to destroy us. After the 14 [mail] bombs were sent, she said we had to pull together as a nation and indeed be more than civil, which of course I agree and support,” Fox News contributor Doug Schoen, Democratic strategist and former adviser to former President Bill Clinton, told Fox News. “But I believe everything she’s said and done all indicate one thing. She wants to run for office and she wants to run for the highest office in the land.”

Clinton ran unsuccessfully against President Trump and against former President Barack Obama in 2008. But the former secretary of state, New York senator and first lady has maintained a never-fading public profile ever since the last election. Clinton went on a book tour last year promoting her memoir, “What Happened,” and, earlier this month, announced that she and Bill Clinton would embark on a speaking tour later this year.

Schoen said she “hopes to use” the speaking tour as “a launching pad, and hopes to make more money to boot.”

“Secretary Clinton has changed her position on this and enough things that if she sees an opening in a multi-candidate field, she will run with alacrity, enthusiasm and impunity,” Schoen said.

Therein lies the challenge. Should Clinton jump in, she would face a much more crowded field than in 2016, when most potential Democratic candidates stayed on the sidelines. Senior Democrats as well as up-and-coming stars are showing no such hesitation this time. Senators like Cory Booker and Kamala Harris, as well as former Vice President Joe Biden and others, are all either laying the groundwork for a run or keeping the door open. If Clinton were to run, it would touch off an even more intense battle for the heart and soul of the party.

Another longtime Clinton aide, Philippe Reines, recently would not rule out another presidential run for Clinton, though he came close.

“It’s somewhere between highly unlikely and zero,” Reines told Politico earlier this month. “But it’s not zero.”

Speaking with Fox News' "The Story," he predicted she could win: “Everyone loves a comeback.”

But he also compared the likelihood of her running again to someone’s chances of winning the lottery.

“I’m not saying she’s going to run,” Reines said. “I think the odds are probably in the Powerball range.”

A spokesman for Biden told Fox News they had “no comment” on a possible Clinton run.