WASHINGTON (Sinclair Broadcast Group) — Before the dust has settled on the midterm elections, candidates are testing the waters for the 2020 presidential election and according to a former adviser to Hillary Clinton, the 2016 Democratic nominee wants a rematch against President Donald Trump.
Mark Penn, who advised Hillary and Bill Clinton for more than a decade, penned an opinion piece Sunday with New York City politician Andrew Stein, predicting Hillary Clinton will make her third bid for president in 2020.
"You can expect her to run for president once again," the writers asserted. "Maybe not at first, when the legions of Senate Democrats make their announcements, but definitely by the time the primaries are in full swing."
Her candidacy ("Hillary Clinton 4.0") will be a return to her "progressive firebrand" roots of the 1990s. "She will hope to emerge as an unstoppable force to undo Mr. Trump, running on the #MeToo movement, universal health care and gun control," the authors continue. Arguing the new generation of Senate Democrats are "bungling amateurs," Penn and Stein encourage voters to "rest assured that, one way or another, Hillary 4.0 is on the way."
The initial response from the White House appeared to be just short of popping champagne bottles. White House counselor Kellyanne Conway responded gleefully to the prospect of a Trump versus Clinton rematch, tweeting, "Dear God, please, yes."
Penn appeared on Fox & Friends Monday morning touting Clinton's credentials and her high approval rating among Democratic Party voters. "Don't underestimate Hillary's positioning to run again," Penn said, claiming Clinton will be a "formidable" opponent the third time around. "She's a pro and she learns. And Clintons never stop until they get where they want to go."
It should be noted that Penn is not clearly in a position to know Hillary Clinton's thinking. He last served as an adviser to Clinton during her 2008 campaign against Barack Obama. Penn was removed from her team after the two had significant policy disagreements and a falling out.
Clinton's close advisers and former aides have not responded to the credibility of the opinion piece. Former Clinton political adviser Adam Parkhomenko rejected Penn's credibility, tweeting, "He’s a terrible human being - term used lightly."
However, another Clinton presidential campaign is not entirely out of the question.
One week before the midterms, Clinton told ReCode's Cara Swisher that she wasn't keen to run again but acknowledged, "I'd like to be president." Clinton said she had "no idea" whether she would run in 2020 and was not going to think about it until after the Nov. 6 midterms. At the time, Nick Merill, Clinton's spokesman, said the former candidate's comments should not be construed as leaving the door open to a presidential bid.
Hillary and Bill Clinton are also expected to stay in the public spotlight through 2019 after kicking off a six-month, 13-city speaking tour last month.
While the Clintons continue to have a relatively strong following, many in the party are looking for a new generation of leaders in 2020.
"Democrats need new blood," said Dr. Wendy Osefo, a Democratic political commentator and professor at Johns Hopkins University.
There are already more than a dozen potential Democratic candidates eyeing the White House in 2020. Some of the candidates are younger or speak to a different demographic than Clinton. "I think Clinton and some other individuals should clear aside for candidates who can move our country and our party in the direction it needs to go," Osefo said.
Clinton is also a highly polarizing figure. Though more than 75 percent of Democrats have a favorable view of her, Hillary Clinton's popularity nationally has been stuck at a record low 36 percent, according to Gallup. That puts her about five points below President's Trump's preelection national approval rating. Trump also boasts more than 90 percent approval among Republicans.
Clinton's single-digit approval rating among Republicans is no accident for a party that has spent millions of dollars villanizing her. In 2018 congressional races, Republican candidates ran attack ads featuring Hillary Clinton and at GOP campaign events, Trump supporters repeatedly broke out in chants of "Lock her up!"
President Trump has publicly relished the idea of a rematch against Hillary Clinton. On the 2018 campaign trail, Trump started practicing a list of derogatory nicknames for potential Democratic front-runners and has come out swinging against Democratic policies like Medicare for All as part of a "radical socialist" agenda.
"Hillary will be the gift that keeps on giving to the Republicans if she decides to jump into that race," said Republican strategist Ford O'Connell.
Clinton still has all of the political liabilities she had in 2016, plus the potential to throw an already crowded and chaotic field of Democrats into bitter infighting. "If she got in, she'll lose the Democratic nomination. It's going to tear the party apart and Donald Trump is going to walk to re-election victory." O'Connell predicted.
Democrats will also be fighting the historic odds of beating an incumbent president. Incumbency is a powerful factor, even for unpopular presidents. In the last 100 years, only five of 15 sitting presidents have lost re-election and each time it was related to a significant economic downturn. "The only thing that can hurt Trump is if he has a recession," said O'Connell.
A lot can happen between before the July 2020 Democratic nominating convention and most voters are uncertain about who they want to become the party's standard bearer.
In a recent poll, almost one-third of Democratic voters preferred "none of the above" when presented with a list of familiar names.
Former Vice President Joe Biden came in second with about 25 percent of support followed by Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton, California Sen. Kamala Harris, business tycoon and former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker.
Some strategists are also considering the virtues and electoral advantages of running a female candidate against Trump in 2020. Based on the results of the 2016 and 2018 elections, it is clear that President Trump and the Republican Party have a problem with women voters, particularly, white college educated, suburban women.
Overall, about 63 percent of female voters disapprove of Trump, according to a Pew Research poll. Republicans also underperformed with women in the most recent elections. According to CNN's exit polls, Democratic candidates had a 19 percent advantage among female voters nationally.
In a poll conducted by Axios earlier this month, Trump was projected to lose his reelection to every potential female Democratic candidate under consideration for 2020, including Hillary Clinton.
Likely voters were asked to assess would-be female candidates. Though neither is expected to run, first lady Michelle Obama and Oprah Winfrey had the highest net favorability rating and a projected 13 and 12 point lead in a hypothetical head to head against President Donald Trump.
Voters had an overall favorable opinion of Kamala Harris and Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar and didn't know enough about New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand. Both Hillary Clinton and Warren had overall unfavorable ratings of - 25 and -16 percent respectively.
Democrats have reason to feel good about female voters when campaigning against Trump. However, they also have to acknowledge their own problem with white male voters without a college degree, who turned out in force for GOP candidates in 2016 and in 2018. This puts the party in a difficult position of satisfying a more liberal, energized, anti-Trump base while also appealing to the blue-collar, working-class voters who voted Republican in the last election.
In addition to a large field of likely female candidates, the 2018 midterms produced a handful of newcomers who won national Democrats' hearts, minds and campaign contributions while losing their races. Former Rep. Beto O'Rourke, who lost to incumbent Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, has been depicted as a "rock star" and compared to both Robert and John Kennedy. Andrew Gillum is currently behind in the Florida governor's race but is still considered to be a promising new voice for the party, as is Stacey Abrams, the Georgia gubernatorial candidate currently fighting voter suppression.
"The names we are starting to see are all viable," Osefo said, noting the ideal Democratic candidate will both energize the base of the party and earn support from independents and even moderate Republicans. "Aside from fitting a certain demographic, we need someone who can go toe to toe with Donald Trump and someone who will put forth policy."
Lesser-known candidates are also beginning to throw their hats in the ring. On Sunday, West Virginia state senator and former Army paratrooper Richard Ojeda filed with the Federal Election Commission to run for president in 2020.
Former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick is also seriously considering entering the 2020 race. According to The New Yorker, Patrick's wife met with Michelle Obama over the weekend to discuss a potential presidential bid. Patrick has publicly considered running for the White House and received private encouragement from former President Obama's inner circle.
Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio also signaled Monday that he is eyeing the White House. After winning his third term in office last week, Brown said he is taking seriously the calls for him to run for president. "I was hearing that a little bit in the campaign but not really paying much attention," Brown said. "Now we're ... seriously looking at it."
Brown's wife, Connie Schultz confirmed on social media, "We're thinking about it."