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Does Hillary’s Swipe Make Tulsi Gabbard a Front-Runner in 2020?

Does Hillary’s Swipe Make Tulsi Gabbard a Front-Runner in 2020?
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Hillary Clinton lashed out at Democratic congresswoman and 2020 presidential candidate Tulsi Gabbard. The 2016 Democratic nominee claimed that Russia is grooming Rep. Gabbard (D-HI) to run the third party in 2020 as an election spoiler to hand Donald Trump a second term in the White House:

“They are also going to do third party again. I’m not making any predictions, but I think they’ve got their eye on somebody who is currently in the Democratic primary and are grooming her to be the third-party candidate.”

Hillary didn’t mention Tulsi by name but did call the alleged Russian spoiler a “she,” and we know she’s not talking about Senators Kamala Harris or Elizabeth Warren. Clinton advanced this latest Russian interference conspiracy theory on David Plouffe’s podcast.

Plouffe was President Barack Obama’s campaign manager in 2008. On his podcast, Hillary Clinton even claimed that Russians have been supporting Tulsi Gabbard’s campaign using a network of fake websites and social media bot accounts:

“She is a favorite of the Russians. They have a bunch of sites and bots and other ways of supporting her so far. That’s assuming Jill Stein will give it up, which she might not because she is also a Russian asset.”

Fellow 2020 presidential hopeful Andrew Yang jumped to Tulsi Gabbard’s defense. He admonished Clinton for disrespecting a candidate who served in combat duty in Iraq. Gabbard is the first female combat veteran to run for president.

Is Hillary’s Attack on Tulsi Having the Streisand Effect?

Google search volume for “Tulsi Gabbard” got a massive spike the week of Oct 13-19. | Source: Google Trends

Building up the controversy even further, Clinton reportedly backed out of a Washington, D.C. event Friday where she was scheduled to appear – along with Tulsi Gabbard. Clinton cited scheduling conflicts with Fortune magazine’s “Most Powerful Women Summit.”

Hillary Clinton’s attack on Tulsi Gabbard is a curious development in the 2020 Democratic primary. The conventional campaign strategy – supported by political science research– is to attack opponents when you are behind or close in the polls. The best approach to opponents when they are behind in the polls (like Tulsi) is to ignore them.

Rep. Gabbard is far behind in the polls. She’s a U.S. House representative, which is hardly a direct springboard to the Oval Office. And Gabbard consistently clocks in at 1% in the polls. But getting attacked by one of the most famous and powerful figures in American politics is extraordinarily valuable and completely free publicity.

Clinton’s attempt to quash a Tulsi Gabbard third-party spoiler effect in 2020 could have the “Streisand effect” on Gabbard’s campaign. That would ironically make the postulated spoiler outcome even more likely.

Why would an elite politician like Hillary Clinton blunder over Political Science 101 electioneering basics? An anti-Trump Republican has a conspiracy theory of his own.

Anti-Trump Republicans to Hillary: Show Me The Bots

Rep. Justin Amash, the Republican Congressman from Michigan who became famous for supporting Trump’s impeachment, is putting forward a conspiracy theory of his own. In a tweet Friday, Amash said Hillary Clinton is playing into Trump’s hands with the Tulsi Gabbard-Russia theory:

George W. Bush campaign strategist Karl Rove rebuked Hillary Clinton for making claims about a network of Russian bots without any evidence:

“Put up or shut up. She’s either got to come forward with the evidence of the bots in the platforms or the sites that are being used on behalf of Gabbard… Or better yet, just shut up or go away. This is just appalling.”

Tulsi fired back at Hillary on Twitter, calling the former State Secretary “queen of warmongers.” She also challenged Hillary to step into the primary and run against her directly. That’s a possibility Hillary appears poised to take seriously.

This article was edited by Gerelyn Terzo.

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