Hillary wondering if there’s an opening in the 2020 field for her

Is it wrong for a man to dream if his dream is ruinous internecine chaos among his political enemies?

If it is then I’ll learn to live with it.

Picture this: Biden decides not to run, sending a bunch of Democrats who have Bernie as their second choice scurrying over to Team Sanders. As Bernie’s lead in the polls builds, a daunted Warren throws in the towel early, leaving even more votes on the table for him. After a strong start, Harris continues to have “notable stumbles” on policy on the campaign trail, seeding doubt among her softer supporters. Cory Booker tries his best to catch fire but he can’t get voters excited about him because he’s too … Cory Booker. Klobuchar is steady but her blandness only seems more glaring in contrast to the grassroots excitement around Sanders. Gillibrand is a total nonfactor because she was always going to be a nonfactor. By late summer 2019, suddenly Sanders is at 40 percent, 20 points ahead of a deeply divided field.

What if there’s only one Democrat in the country with the name recognition and fundraising resources to jump in late and stop the advance of the socialist menace? Besides Michelle Obama, I mean.

But even as she offers supportive words, Mrs. Clinton has given the impression that she harbors a faint hope she could still become president one day. In private conversations, she occasionally muses about an opening, according to some who have spoken with her, sounding more wistful than realistic.

There are no actual signs Mrs. Clinton is pursuing a campaign. Her former campaign chairman, John Podesta, said flatly weeks ago she was not running. Mr. Merrill declined to comment on her plans, pointing to her remarks last fall when she twice said “no” about wanting to run again before adding, “Well, I’d like to be president.”

I can sort of imagine Hillary winning the nomination in the scenario I described above. I can’t imagine her winning the presidency anymore. The bitterness between her and the Bernie wing is toxic after 2016 and somehow only getting worse. The Times story quoted above notes that only three Dem contenders have failed to meet with her to kiss the ring: Beto, who might not run but certainly will drop by if he does; Gillibrand, who made the Clintons mad by turning on Bill as part of her #MeToo rebranding and is now seeking a meeting to reconcile; and Bernie, who wouldn’t pee on her if she were on fire. As much as the Berniebros hate Trump and want to beat him, I think watching Hillary emerge from the blue to thwart their hero in the primary a second time really would be the breaking point for them. Enough would stay home in November to hand Trump the win. She has no path anymore.

Luckily for Democrats, it probably won’t come to that. Sounds like Biden is very close to taking the plunge and assuming the mantle of center-left Bernie-slayer.

A thought I had reading the Times story: Would Gillibrand be doing better if she had embraced the Clintons’ legacy and run as their, or at least Hillary’s, rightful political heir? My instinct is “no” because I can’t believe there might be a political demand somewhere in America for Gillibrand in any flavor. But there’s some logic to the argument. Most of the public may disdain Hillary but she and Bill do have loyal fans among centrist and liberal Democrats. And there’s no competition among the Democratic field to inherit the Clinton “brand” after 2016, for understandable reasons. Gillibrand could have had that niche to herself and treated it as something to build on; she’s a natural fit for the role, having been appointed to Hillary’s vacant Senate seat in New York after she was elevated to Secretary of State. Instead she made a show last year of saying that Bill should have resigned over the Monica saga and alienated some Clinton fans in so doing, and for what? To be able to say she’s 1/100th more woke on workplace harassment than the rest of the field? There’s a reason she’s stuck at one percent in New Hampshire. She’s a candidate without a reason to be in the race. If she wasn’t such an incessant panderer and retained some of her old pre-Senate centrism, she’d be primed to make the sort of run that Klobuchar’s making right now.

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