Hillary Clinton is increasingly sounding like someone who isn't done with national politics.
In her Wellesley College commencement address Friday, the 2016 Democratic presidential nominee took repeated shots at President Trump, the man who beat her in November.
"Look at the budget that was just proposed in Washington," Clinton said. "It is an attack of unimaginable cruelty on the most vulnerable among us, the youngest, the oldest, the poorest, and hardworking people who need a little help to gain or hang on to a decent middle-class life… And to top it off, it is shrouded in a trillion-dollar mathematical lie."
But Clinton is doing more than just talking about Trump as a once and future foe. Earlier this month, she launched a new political group called Onward Together. "The last few months, I've been reflecting, spending time with family — and, yes, taking walks in the woods," Clinton tweeted.
In her recent appearance with Christiane Amanpour at the Women for Women International gala in New York, Clinton clearly hadn't let her election loss go. "If the election had been on October 27," she said, referring to the day before since-fired FBI Director James Comey's letter saying he was reopening the email investigation, "I'd be your president."
Is Clinton thinking of running for president in 2020? "What are they so afraid of?" Clinton asked about her most fervent critics in a New York magazine profile. "Me, to some extent. Because I don't die, despite their best efforts." (The profile at one point described Clinton as "brassy, frank, funny, and pissed.")
But not all Democrats are excited about watching Clinton take a third shot at the White House.
"There are plenty in the party who are terrified that it's something she may be considering or working towards," said a Democratic strategist who requested anonymity to speak candidly about a hypothetical third Hillary Clinton presidential campaign. "Speaking out and setting up a PAC are steps a future candidate takes."
"On top of that, when she speaks, it sucks some of the oxygen out of the room that other Democrats who haven't already run and lost twice deserve to have," the strategist said. In other words, Clinton's talks keep Democratic talent on the bench.
Another run seemed improbable after Clinton's shocking loss to Trump in November. The wounds from her primary campaign against Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., never completely healed. Leaked emails that poured gasoline on the Clinton vs. Sanders fire remain at the center of the Russian interference probe. Additionally, Democrats were angry that she blew a race they all assumed she would win.
Clinton allies have also said publicly that she isn't going to run for president again. "[Q]uite frankly, she's done with that," former campaign chairman John Podesta was quoted as saying just this week. "I don't expect her to ever run for any elected office again," Clinton confidante Neera Tanden told CNN earlier this year. "I don't expect her to run for [mayor of New York City] and I don't expect her to run for other office."
And there are other hurdles. After eight years of President Obama and a strong showing in the primaries by an openly socialist candidate, many liberal Democrats no longer believe the Clintons' triangulation or business-friendly centrism is politically necessary anymore. Obama won twice with an electoral coalition that resembled George McGovern's.
"I never thought she was a great candidate," former Vice President Joe Biden reportedly told an audience in Las Vegas. "I thought I was a great candidate."
New York Daily News columnist Gersh Kuntzman was perhaps the most vulgar: "Hey, Hillary Clinton, shut the f--- up and go away already."
Some Democratic insiders nevertheless believe a 2020 campaign will be highly tempting for Clinton. She remains popular with vast swathes of the party's base, despite the bad blood with the Sanders wing. Trump's unpopularity will make her look like a Cassandra who unsuccessfully warned against the mess in Washington.
"Nasty woman," a Trump jibe from the debates, is now worn as a badge of honor by women in the "resistance." Many believe Clinton was wronged during the campaign, a victim of sexism, and they recoil at the notion that she was a bad candidate but Trump was somehow a good one. The leaky Trump White House and the intensifying Russia probe take at least some of the sting out of the private email server.
Clinton will be 72 but Trump will be 73. Sanders will be 78. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., will be 70 by the end of June 2020. Clinton's stature could prevent fresher faces from catching on.
"I want to say ‘Oh God, it's not possible," said a Democratic operative who requested anonymity to speak candidly. "But when you look at the field, it really is possible."
Former Vice President Al Gore also lost a close, bitterly fought presidential campaign in which he finished first in the national popular vote. Gore then watched that Republican president become unpopular. He remained a vocal critic who was rumored to retain his presidential ambitions — but he passed on a 2004 candidacy and never ran for president again.
"By staying in the spotlight and encouraging people to think he might run, Gore kept the issues he cared about in the spotlight," said the operative. "Hillary can do that too."
Even that is too much for some Democrats. "Every time she talks it's a voice from a painful past that we don't want to revisit for a third time," said the first strategist. "She should be behaving as an elder statesman, not a political critic. It's very selfish for Democrats who want to move the party forward and into the future."
"Bill and Hillary have done a lot for our party and we should be grateful," said another Democratic insider. "But it's time for a new generation."
"And I don't mean Chelsea," the Democrat added quickly.