Hillary Clinton has been quietly meeting with a handful of potential Democratic 2020 nominees, according to a report from Axios, apparently encouraging the field to compete to earn her endorsement.
"Clinton has discussed the next presidential race with Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ), Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper and L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti, according to a longtime Clinton confidante," the security news outlet reported on Friday, adding that Hillary has been quizzing candidates on whether they believe they can beat Trump — something Clinton feels should be the key characteristic of the next Democratic presidential nominee.
CNN added on Saturday that Clinton has also met with Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA), whose name was left off the original list.
The Democratic hopefuls obviously want Clinton's endorsement — or at least her support. Even though she failed miserably in 2016, Clinton commands something of a cult following, and many of her supporters are looking to her for guidance on how to move forward.
"People are direct in saying they want her support," a source told Axios. "Others are reaching out."
So far, though, it seems, according to both reports, that Clinton hasn't been forthcoming with the support, though she has reportedly provided some Democratic candidates with campaign advice.
"I won’t comment on private discussions she’s had except to say that she’s more than happy to talk to anyone considering a run about the challenges (as well as the great things) that go with it, and lessons learned on what to watch for in this next cycle (aside from Vladimir)," Clinton's spokesman told Axios.
There's one problem: it's not clear Clinton has ruled out running in 2020, and even CNN is forced to admit in their piece about the Democrats' "kiss the ring" campaign that Clinton's endorsement will depend heavily on how the first few months of the Democratic primary play out. Clinton will likely keep her cards close to her chest as the 30-odd crowd of potential nominees thins out, and then make a final decision as to whether she'll run for president a third time.
In October, Clinton's chances of running again were "somewhere between highly unlikely and zero" according to one of her top advisers who spoke to Politico. By November, however, sources with knowledge of Clinton's plans seemed to believe she'd decided on a third run.
In an essay for The Wall Street Journal, Clinton's former pollster Mark Penn claimed, “True to her name, Mrs. Clinton will fight this out until the last dog dies. She won’t let a little thing like two stunning defeats stand in the way of her claim to the White House.”
So far, the field is fairly weak. Both Booker and Harris have yet to announce. Hickenlooper and Garcetti are said to still be in the "consideration" stage. Warren's campaign kicked off semi-officially last week with the launch of her "Presidential exploratory committee," but hasn't seen the kind of excitement a candidate would need to see to convince big money donors they're capable of beating President Donald Trump.