Hillary Clinton was once the face of the Democratic Party, a celebrity name who could draw thousands to rallies and was the all-but-certain first female president of the United States. Now, she is viewed as "the kiss of death" for candidates.
As the midterm election campaigns enter the home stretch, the former secretary of state, first lady, senator, and 2016 Democratic nominee is almost completely absent from the campaign trail. Most Democrats are keen to keep it that way, fearing that her reappearance could cost them a golden opportunity of winning back control of Congress.
Clinton and her husband, former President Bill Clinton, are due to go back on the road next month, embarking on a 13-city tour in which they will conduct “one-of-a-kind conversations" about "the most impactful moments in modern history". But Democratic strategists are relieved that their first event will be 12 days after Americans go to the polls on Nov 6.
"I think they're measuring how they can have the best, positive impact and have kind of decided to wait until after the election," said Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill.
One House Democrat said the Clintons were not missed. "I have not seen Hillary or Bill at all — and I’m very grateful for that," he said. "When I think of people who have been part of our push to retake the House, I just don’t think of them at all. ... I think it’s a very good thing that they’re not being visible. It wouldn’t help our candidates."
With under four weeks until Election Day, Hillary Clinton's footprint on the 2018 scene has been remarkably light, with her involvement focused on fundraising behind closed doors rather than being seen by voters. She is slated to headline a pair of fundraisers in New York for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee on Monday, alongside House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. Additionally, Hillary Clinton is set to headline a fundraiser for Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., Monday evening.
"Hillary Clinton is the kiss of death and she represents the part of the Democratic Party that led to historic losses and that elected Donald Trump president," said a leading Democratic strategist who requested anonymity because of fear of political retribution.
Hillary Clinton headlined her first public event last week for J.B. Pritzker, the Democratic nominee for governor of Illinois: a roundtable on leadership. She is planning to appear alongside Andrew Gillum, the Democratic gubernatorial candidate in Florida, in late October.
This is a far cry from other top-tier Democratic surrogates like Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., who announced plans to campaign in nine states ahead of Election Day for various congressional, gubernatorial, and state legislature candidates. Former President Barack Obama has also ramped up his public appearances ahead of Election Day. Thus far, he has campaigned for candidates in California, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Illinois. The same cannot be said of Hillary Clinton, who many Democrats are eager to avoid.
Both Menendez and Pritzker carry considerable baggage. Menendez was once under federal indictment for corruption before the case was dropped earlier this year, while Pritzker was investigated for removing toilets from one of his luxury homes along Chicago’s Gold Coast to avoid property taxes.
The Democratic strategist said: "It's no surprise that one of the very few Democrats that would welcome her is someone who was formerly under federal indictment and the most scandal-plagued Democrat in the country."
According to multiple Democratic senators up for re-election in states, ranging from ruby red to deep blue, and those involved in 2018 strategy, Hillary Clinton has not been called upon and isn't expected to be. In many cases, she is an afterthought.
"No. I haven't asked her," said Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., noting that Biden recently fundraised for her before explaining why Clinton hasn't been involved. "It's a good question. I probably should, but we've done events. We do five a week, and they're small. I don't think I'm doing a big, huge event."
Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., who is running in a state that voted for President Trump in 2016, said that he is "not aware" of anything Clinton is doing for her campaign. Additionally, Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., Clinton's running mate during the 2016 campaign who is up for re-election, said he wasn't sure why she was maintaining a low profile heading into the election.
"I don't really know," he said of her pre-election day involvement, adding that he isn't sure if she'll do anything on his behalf ahead of Nov. 6. "Not yet. We don't have a plan yet, but I'm so close to her people in Virginia."
Clinton's popularity sits at a record low, according to a Gallup poll taken in September. Only 36 percent view her favorably, including 30 percent of independents and 77 percent of Democrats.
She is a particularly divisive figure in GOP "red" states, especially those that Trump won overwhelmingly two years ago and where Democratic senators are up for re-election in November. In North Dakota, Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., has criticized her on multiple occasions, most recently for comments this week that Democrats cannot be civil with Republicans, calling them "ridiculous."
"I think it’s pretty wise for her not to show up," said Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., adding that her impact in a red state is not helpful.
“It would be pretty harmful.” Durbin said with a laugh: "They're red [states] because she didn't carry them."
Sen. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., chairman of the Senate Democrats' campaign arm, said that it remains up to each campaign if they want Clinton or anyone else to be involved in their races, but noted that he did not believe she was doing anything for anyone except Menendez.
"Those are decisions that are left to every campaign," Van Hollen said. "We welcome the participation of anybody who wants to help, but we leave it to the campaigns to work with them."
Hillary Clinton also isn't expected to do any work on behalf of Democratic candidates running for GOP-held seats as campaigns for both Rep. Jacky Rosen, D-Nev., and Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., have not, and do not, plan to reach out for Hillary Clinton's help.
"Democrats don't want her to campaign for them because everywhere she goes she carries this stench of death and is the only political figure in America that is less popular than Donald Trump," said the Democratic strategist. "That's a real testament to her.
"People don't want her or her husband around anymore. She represents the past of the Democratic Party. If Democrats are going to win back the House, and a lot of them are next generation, younger Democrats, they don't want to be associated with the Clintons and all of their baggage.
"I don't know that it's necessarily about her. I'm sure if people wanted her to, she'd campaign, but she's a liability. Every time that she goes out and speaks, it's a bad thing for the Democratic Party. ... She had the most catastrophic presidential campaign in history. If we're trying to say, 'We want to turn the page, we want to usher in a new era of Democratic politics,' she is the worst possible spokesperson, face, or endorser for any campaign that's trying to do that."
While Hillary Clinton's top attribute remains fundraising, which she will be doing all day Monday, some sources involved in Senate races argued that she isn't especially missed in that sphere either. They pointed to the large amounts of fundraising candidates have done with small-dollar donors and the $20 million Michael Bloomberg announced he is donating to the Senate Majority PAC.
A spokesman for Hillary Clinton did not respond to a request for comment.