- The Washington Times - Friday, January 3, 2020

The ghosts of presidential contests past are threatening to haunt the field of 2020 Democratic candidates just as the primary season gets underway.

Vying for attention will be former President Barack Obama and 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, both of whom are embarking on national book tours.

Mrs. Clinton’s comments on her publicity tour for “The Book of Gutsy Women,” co-authored with daughter Chelsea, already have helped set the agenda for the early stages of the Democrats’ 2020 campaign. A memoir from Mr. Obama is expected to arrive this year with a similar effect of bigfooting the Democratic candidates’ message.

Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Obama are effectively crowding out the 2020 field at a critical juncture in the race, said Greg Mueller, president of CRC Strategies, which has done publicity work for New York Times bestselling authors and presidential candidates.

“Having two high-profile Democrats suck the oxygen out [of] the room does a disservice to those running in a crowded field,” he said. “And any time Hillary Clinton is on TV, it’s a good day for President Trump.”

First, Mrs. Clinton attacked Democratic hopeful Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii in an October podcast interview with David Plouffe, Mr. Obama’s campaign manager in 2008.

In addition to his podcast, Mr. Plouffe is working to dictate the 2020 campaign conversation through the liberal nonprofit Acronym, which has developed digital “Courier Newsrooms” with $25 million at its disposal to push out anti-Trump content in key battleground states.

“I think they’ve got their eye on somebody who’s currently in the Democratic primary and are grooming her to be the third-party candidate,” Mrs. Clinton said of the Russians’ intentions, which was a veiled reference to Ms. Gabbard. “She’s the favorite of the Russians, they have a bunch of sites and bots and other ways of supporting her so far, and that’s assuming [Green Party presidential candidate] Jill Stein will give it up, which she might not because she’s also a Russian asset.”

Ms. Gabbard responded to the attack in a tweet labeling Mrs. Clinton “the queen of warmongers, embodiment of corruption, and personification of the rot that has sickened the Democratic Party for so long.”

Ms. Gabbard’s attorneys followed up with a demand that Mrs. Clinton retract her defamatory comments and apologize.

Ms. Gabbard wasn’t the only Democratic presidential candidate caught in Mrs. Clinton’s crosshairs.

Mrs. Clinton, a former U.S. senator and secretary of state, took aim at Sen. Bernard Sanders of Vermont during an interview with shock jock Howard Stern.

“He hurt me, there’s no doubt about it,” Mrs. Clinton said of Mr. Sanders’ upstart 2016 presidential bid. “And I hope he doesn’t do it again to whoever gets the nomination. Once is enough.”

Mr. Sanders responded in an interview on Iowa public television. “I’m sorry that Hillary Clinton is rerunning 2016,” he said, noting his efforts to help her failing campaign after she secured the Democratic nomination.

The anticipated launch of Mr. Obama’s book tour likely will grab more attention.

In March, Mr. Obama told a Canadian audience that he was finishing writing his memoir. He appears to be eyeing a rollout.

Mr. Obama has not shied away from hammering the 2020 Democratic field. In remarks to an audience of Democracy Alliance’s liberal donors, he urged the candidates to be “rooted in reality,” Politico reported.

“The average American doesn’t think we have to completely tear down the system and remake it,” Mr. Obama said. “They just don’t want to see crazy stuff.”

Although Mr. Obama’s publisher has been mum on the timing of his book release, it likely will give him the platform to shape the contours of the primary race toward those moving in his direction.

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