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No, Hillary Clinton is not currently laying the groundwork to run for president in 2020
With the 2020 general election just under a year away, major political parties on both sides of the aisle are ramping up fundraising. For the Missouri GOP, this has included making some bold claims, such as the one made in an email by Chairwoman of the Missouri Republican Party Kay Hoflander.
The October 11 email said, "Have you seen the recent news about Hillary? All signs seem to point to Hillary laying the groundwork to run for president again...GOOD! We welcome her to lose again next November, especially here in Missouri."
It’s a tactic to strike fear in the hearts of the Grand Old Party’s potential donors. On its face, a Clinton run seems unlikely. But we were curious. Are there any signs suggesting former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is planning another run for president in 2020? We decided to investigate.
We started by looking into the basics — Federal Election Commission statements of candidacy.
According to FEC rules, any individual running for federal office must register as a candidate within 15 days of becoming a candidate, which occurs when he or she has raised or spent more than $5,000.
Clinton filed her original statement of candidacy for the 2008 election about 21 months before the general election. She filed her original statement of candidacy for the 2016 election nearly 19 months before the general election.
If Clinton were to file a statement of candidacy now — joining President Donald Trump and fellow Democrats, all of whom have already declared their candidacy to the FEC — she would be doing so only 12 months before the general election.
If Clinton decided on a late-stage run, she would also not be on the primary ballot in Alabama.
The deadline to qualify and be on the March 3, 2020, ballot in Alabama was last Friday. While former New York City mayor and businessman Michael Bloomberg made headlines last week by filing paperwork to qualify, Clinton did not take the same step.
At least twice, Clinton made flat out denials: "I’m not running," she told New York television in March. "But I’m going to keep working and speaking and standing up for what I believe."
"No, I’m not going to run again," she told BBC Radio 4’s "Woman’s Hour" in October 2017.
Jean Evans, the GOP executive director, in an email response specifically cited two articles she said indicate that Clinton’s behavior is "typical of someone who is seriously considering candidacy." The first article from the Washington Post said Clinton is being urged to run, but in the same sentence also said she "signaled that she isn’t planning to run — at least, not at the moment."
Evans’ second example was the rumors after Clinton teased at the idea of a 2020 run on Twitter. On Oct. 8, Trump tweeted that Clinton should enter the presidential race, and Clinton responded, "Don’t tempt me."
Despite this, former Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta said in January he believes Clinton when she says she isn’t running. He told CNN’s Erin Burnett that the idea of a 2020 Clinton run was "media catnip."
One of Clinton’s former advisors, Philippe Reines, said in late October that Clinton had not ruled out a 2020 run entirely.
Stuart Streichler, a University of Washington affiliate associate professor of law, societies, and justice, said there are a number of problems Clinton would face entering the race so late in the game. Streichler — who has provided volunteer legal counsel to Sen. Al Gore’s presidential campaign and worked as a Wisconsin poll observer during Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential run — explained that it would be "highly unusual" for someone to enter the race at this point.
"A lot of the staff — the talent that you would want to get as staff — are already working for other candidates," Streichler said.
Adjunct professor of law at American University Louis Caldera said leading candidates "already have an extensive ground game in Iowa and in the early primary states with millions in the bank," which makes it even less likely that Clinton would try to jump in now.
Streichler said money and donors are already committed to other candidates.
Streichler and Caldera acknowledged that Clinton would have name recognition on her side if she decided to run. But Streichler said he thinks "there’s almost a zero percent chance" someone new could successfully enter the Democratic field now unless there was a major shift.
(Example: In 1968, President Lyndon B. Johnson announced he would not seek re-election after almost losing the New Hampshire primary to Sen. Eugene McCarthy. Johnson’s departure allowed candidates like Sen. Robert F. Kennedy — who entered the race just days after the embarrassing New Hampshire primary — to gain a foothold.)
Caldera, who also has an extensive background in public service including serving as President Bill Clinton’s Secretary of the Army and working in the Obama White House, added that someone entering the race late would need a "breakout moment." But he thinks the odds of Clinton jumping into the race are low.
"One of the truisms of politics is that the closer you get to the Election Day, the fewer undecided votes there are to convince," Caldera said.
Clinton’s Democratic colleagues in the Senate have also warned her against another run for president, and her allies have said they are not taking the talk of her running again in 2020 seriously, according to Politico reporting.
The Missouri GOP appears to be using this claim to spur fundraising; the email ends with the sentence, "I am not asking for much, but I am asking for participation to make sure we don't see a President Biden, Warren, Sanders, or Clinton in our future!" It is followed by Kay Hoflander’s sign-off and a button that reads, "Click to give $1 or a [sic] more now!"
Caldera said this is not a new tactic.
"In politics, party leaders like to fire up the base by trotting out the people who they think they’ll get the strongest response to," Caldera said.
He explained that even in local elections, unpopular members of the opposing party are often brought up. Because getting President Trump reelected is the primary job of Republican party leaders, Caldera said it made sense that they would single out Hillary Clinton, who stirs up strong negative reactions among GOP supporters, as a potential threat to Trump’s in 2020.
"You know, it’s throwing red meat," Caldera said. "It’s getting people to try to have an immediate negative response and leading them to click on the ‘donate now’ button."
He added that as the incumbent president, Trump can run against the Democratic party as a whole or he can target individual opponents. But Caldera explained that Trump would want to avoid elevating any potential Democratic nominees at this stage.
"It’s a lot easier to say, ‘Hey, remember that person who almost beat him the last time and that we really don’t like? She might jump in the race if we’re not really formidable in our fundraising and scare her off," Caldera said.
Kay Hoflander said, "All signs seem to point to Hillary laying the groundwork to run for president again," in a Missouri GOP fundraising email.
Clinton has not filed as a candidate with the FEC, and it is no longer possible for her to get on the primary ballot in Alabama.
In previous months, Clinton has said she will not run, and experts believe it would be difficult for her to enter the race now. Experts also said Clinton hasn’t done anything that would be considered "laying the groundwork" to run again.
Despite whispers and rumors, at this time no concrete steps have been taken to lay the groundwork for a Clinton 2020 campaign. The claim appears to be an unsubstantiated fundraising tactic.
We rate this claim False.
Interview with Stuart Streichler, affiliate associate professor of law, societies, and justice at the University of Washington, on Oct. 29, 2019
Interview with Louis Caldera, distinguished adjunct professor of law at American University Washington College of Law, on Nov. 7, 2019
Email exchange with Kay Hoflander, Chair of the Missouri Republican Party, on Nov. 13, 2019
Email exchange with Jean Evans, Executive Director of the Missouri Republican Party, on Nov. 13, 2019
Federal Election Commission, Candidate filings, accessed Nov. 12, 2019
Federal Election Commission, Registering as a candidate, accessed Oct. 30, 2019
The Guardian, ‘The stakes are enormous’: is Hillary Clinton set for a White House run?, Oct. 9, 2019
New York Times, Hillary Clinton Says She Is Not Running for President in 2020, March 4, 2019
News 12, 'I'm not running': Hillary Clinton rules out 2020 bid for first time on camera in exclusive interview with News 12, March 4, 2019
Real Clear Politics, Bill Clinton on Hillary: "She May Or May Not Run," Oct. 31, 2019
Real Clear Politics, Clinton Advisor Philippe Reines: Hillary Has Not Closed The Door On 2020, Oct. 23, 2019
Politico, Senate Democrats tell Hillary Clinton: Time to move on, Oct. 24, 2019
BBC Radio 4’s Women’s Hour, Hillary Clinton gives her verdict on why she lost the USA presidential election, Oct. 17, 2017
Politico, Podesta: Clinton says 'she's not running for president,' Jan. 30, 2019
New York Times, Why Lyndon Johnson Dropped Out, March 24, 2018
History, LBJ Announced He Wouldn’t Run Again. Political Chaos Ensued, Sept. 10, 2018
Alabama Democrats, Qualified Candidates for March 3, 2020 Primary, accessed Nov. 8, 2019
New York Times, Michael Bloomberg Actively Prepares to Enter 2020 Presidential Race, Nov. 7, 2019
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No, Hillary Clinton is not currently laying the groundwork to run for president in 2020
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