One big question remaining after the Democratic Party’s huge election flop is whether the Clintons are politically finished once and for all.
Hillary Clinton’s implosion left Democrats frozen out of power in the White House, the Senate, and the House of Representatives for at least the next couple of years.
She’s 69. The former president is 70. Their longtime ally Terry McAuliffe, now Virginia’s governor, drew attention for saying the morning after Donald Trump won and Republicans kept the Congress, “I don’t think Hillary has any interest in running again.”
But that’s thin, short-term speculation.
“They can’t just go away,” said a longtime academic who preferred anonymity. “There’s always a comeback. It’s what they do.”
Whether the Clintons can stay relevant, though, may well depend on the direction in which party players choose to move.
Picking a national party chairman, for instance, is much less important for the “in” party than the “out” party. The “in” party has a president and Congressional leaders who call the shots.
President-elect Donald Trump this week tapped Michigan GOP Chairwoman Ronna Romney McDaniel, 43, to head the Republican National Committee.
She’s a niece of Mitt Romney, the 2012 Republican presidential candidate, who launched heated denunciations of Trump during the campaign, calling him a fraud.
On the Democratic side, the selection of a chairman could signal whether the party will be a centrist Clintonian organization, or follow a more populistic Bernie Sanders bent, or remain a contentious mixture of both.
This week, U.S. Labor Secretary Tom Perez emerged as a likely challenger to Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) for the top DNC spot.
Earlier this month, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) the incoming minority leader and an Ellison backer, said he’d spoken with Sanders about the post.
“When the DNC opened up, [Sanders] called me and said we need to make the DNC not a fundraising and political organization, but a true organizing tool,” Schumer recalled. “I said, ‘You’re exactly right.’ And he says, ‘The guy to do it is Keith Ellison.’ ”
Perez was confirmed as President Barack Obama’s Labor secretary in 2013 to replace Hilda Solis. A graduate of Brown University and Harvard Law School, Perez was seen as a likely high-level appointee if Clinton had won.
He was a staffer for the late Sen. Ted Kennedy and served as civil rights director at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in the last years of Bill Clinton’s administration.
Perez was raised in Buffalo and may be counting on union support to bolster his chances.
At least some operatives and appointees from Obama and Clinton circles are expected to gravitate toward academic and government positions in New York, in the administrations of either Mayor Bill de Blasio or Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo.
The defeated presidential candidate herself has stayed mostly out of the public eye since Election Day. Last week, she appeared at a farewell celebration for Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.).
She spoke about false “news” reports. The previous weekend a man opened fire with an automatic weapon inside the Comet Ping Pong pizzeria in Washington. Police said he’d heard and read about the unfounded claim that a child sex slave ring was based there and somehow tied to Clinton.
So-called fake news “is a danger that must be addressed and addressed quickly,” Clinton said at the Reid send off.
But she has not made a preference known for DNC chief.