vision 2020

Gabbard Isn’t Running for Reelection — or for President on a Third-Party Ticket

Gabbard is running for president, period, and as a Democrat, period. Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Lots of times the chattering classes of political discourse are capable of adding two and two and getting five. That may have been the case when a misquoted Hillary Clinton remark about Tulsi Gabbard began a war of words with the Hawaii congresswoman, which led to rampant speculation that Gabbard would run for president as a third-party spoiler. When Gabbard announced on Friday that she was not running for reelection to the House next year, some nervous Democrats likely concluded she was thinking about becoming the next Jill Stein, as HRC had feared (on review, HRC said she thought Gabbard was being groomed by Republicans — not Russians, as was originally reported — for a third-party gig). But then word got out she had already foresworn the third-party scenario early this week:

Don’t worry, U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard says, she’s still a Democrat and has no intention of running for president as a third-party candidate.

Gabbard made the assertion in front of an audience of about 400 women, many of them business leaders and CEOs, who were gathered in downtown Washington, D.C., on Tuesday for Fortune’s annual Most Powerful Women Summit.

A questioner specifically mentioned Clinton’s theories about Gabbard’s plans, which didn’t seem to make any difference to her. She did not repeat her earlier references to HRC as “the queen of warmongers” and as “the personification of the rot that has sickened the Democratic Party for so long,” but she did say this:

“I am calling out my own party and I am calling out what I have seen as a corrupted influence in our party that’s taken it away from the party of the people that it needs to be,” Gabbard said during Tuesday’s event.

“I’m not going to run as a third party candidate. I’m running for the Democratic nomination to lead the Democratic Party and take it back from those who have been advocating for waging more regime change wars and serving interests other than the interests of the people.”

So why has she already foresworn a congressional reelection bid? She does not, after all, have much of a chance to win the presidential nomination, which may, in any event, be won by someone like Elizabeth Warren who isn’t exactly a Clinton-style centrist.

The explanation is pretty uncomplicated: She was in some trouble back home, and would have probably had to abandon her presidential bid altogether to secure her seat, as Politico reports:

[H]er path to winning a fifth term in 2020 was complicated by a formidable primary challenge from state Sen. Kai Kahele, as well as her thorny relationships with other Aloha State politicians.

A trio of former Hawaii governors have backed Kahele’s bid to unseat Gabbard, and she ignited a feud with Sen. Mazie Hirono after authoring an op-ed in January accusing Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee of “religious bigotry” in their questioning of a nominee for a district judgeship.

Hirono, a member of that panel who previously held Gabbard’s House seat, criticized the congresswoman and called her assertions “totally unfounded” during an interview in March.

Now Gabbard can concentrate on being a gadfly in national Democratic politics.

Gabbard Not Running for Anything But Democratic 2020 Nominee