The candidate who lost to Trump is making all the right moves as some fear a primary gone too far left. Its a tantalising notion, but most observers counsel caution and a dose of realism
A high-profile book tour. Countless TV interviews. Political combat with a Democratic primary candidate and Donald Trump. A year before the US presidential election, it looks like a campaign and it sounds like a campaign but it isnt a campaign. At least, not as far anyone knows.
Yet a recent surge of activity by Hillary Clinton, combined with reports and columns suggesting the Democrats have not found the right candidate, have made a 2016 rematch a fun, speculative and potentially intriguing topic of Washington conversation.
The sense that something strange is going on began a few weeks ago. A book is a traditional vehicle for a candidate. The former secretary of state launched The Book of Gutsy Women, co-written with daughter Chelsea, and embarked on a tour that included events, speeches and late-night TV appearances.
Clinton, 72, whose narrow, devastating defeat by Trump was one of the greatest upsets in political history, has also become more prolific and pugnacious on Twitter. On 25 September, after revelations about Trumps call with the president of Ukraine, she wrote: The president of the United States has betrayed our country He is a clear and present danger to the things that keep us strong and free. I support impeachment.
On 30 September, Clinton tweeted: The president is a corrupt human tornado. On 3 October, after Trump invited China to investigate former vice-president Joe Biden: Someone should inform the president that impeachable offenses committed on national television still count.
And on 8 October, when Trump suggested Clinton should enter the presidential race, she retorted: Dont tempt me. Do your job.
Perhaps most oddly of all, Clinton also appeared to lash out at a fellow Democrat. In a podcast interview, she said Russia had got their eye on somebody who is currently in the Democratic primary and are grooming her to be the third-party candidate. It was widely assumed to be a reference to Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, who mounted a furious response.
This week the comeback tour continued when she appeared with the supreme court justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg at the Georgetown University Law Center in Washington. As she was introduced with husband Bill, Clinton gained longer and louder applause than the former president, whose affair with a White House intern has received fresh scrutiny in the #MeToo era. Unlike his wife, he has been remarkably silent during the Democratic primary. Candidates show little appetite for his endorsement.
Addressing law students, Clinton appeared more humorous and at ease than on the campaign trail. The final question concerned whether the guests were rooting for the Washington Nationals in baseballs World Series. Bill interjected: I guess I should go first. Im the only one thats not running for anything. Ever. She may or may not ever run for anything but I cant legally run for president again.
The Nationals won the deciding game in Houston and Hillary managed to make a political point: World Series champs should get statehood. The following night, she even performed in a Halloween sketch for The Daily Show on Comedy Central, revisiting the horror of the electoral college that cost her victory in 2016.
Its time to move past the Clintons
All this could be dismissed as no more than a smart way to promote a book, were it not coinciding with mild panic in Democratic ranks. The primary has attracted a record number of candidates and record diversity yet, many argue, failed to produce a John F Kennedy, a Bill Clinton or a Barack Obama, in terms of natural political gifts or charisma.