Bill And Hillary Clinton Playing Behind-The-Scenes Roles In 2024 Election

President Bill Clinton and Secretary Hillary Rodham Clinton in conversation with David Rubenstein at the 92nd Street Y on Thursday, May 4, 2023, in New York. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP)

late last June, when Bill Clinton welcomed Larry Hogan to Little Rock, the ex-president realized he had an opportunity to step carefully back into the political fray. The pair was scheduled for a ticketed chat about bipartisanship on Clinton’s home turf just as Hogan, the former Maryland governor, was rumored to be thinking about a third-party presidential run via the No Labels group, which he was also co-chairing.

Before they walked onstage, Clinton delicately made his view clear to the Republican, even though Hogan hadn’t asked: Any independent campaign of the kind No Labels was talking about could only benefit Donald Trump.


He wasn’t done yet. Two months later, Clinton heard from Joe Manchin, who was vacationing near the Clintons’ spot in East Hampton and wanted advice about his political future. Clinton had heard real concern from fellow Democrats that the West Virginian would head a No Labels ticket himself, and he’d previously discussed the politically tricky senator with the Biden White House when administration officials asked for his help winning Manchin over on legislation. Manchin was being far more open about the attractiveness of an independent run than Hogan was. So when they met in person, Clinton decided to get considerably more forceful than their placid surroundings might have suggested. This time, he ditched the diplomatic niceties and told the senator sharply that he was risking putting Trump back in the White House.

By late November, Bill found himself closer to the center of presidential politics than he’d been since Hillary ran in 2016. He and Joe Biden hadn’t talked in person in a few months, but he had been making no secret to friends that he thought Biden wasn’t getting the credit he deserved for his accomplishments.

Tucked into a quiet corner of Air Force One on the way to Georgia for Rosalynn Carter’s memorial service, the 42nd president repeated the sentiment to the 46th, chewing over the unique challenges of the presidency as almost no one else could. Flying south from Washington, they discussed Biden’s obstacles in a political environment warped by Trump — how hard it had gotten to focus public attention on what Biden was doing and how complicated it had become to turn around the national feeling about the economy.

Four years ago, the Clintons were as far from political influence as they’d been in ages. In a post–Me Too world, Bill was often treated as persona non grata in public and Hillary was still thought of primarily as the person who lost to Trump. But a few weeks ago, they drew a flurry of media attention with the announcement that Biden would host a major fundraiser in the city with Bill and Barack Obama in late March. (As the inescapable flood of Trump fundraising emails put it: “Obama is back! Bill Clinton is back too.”)

The event is just the most public part of what’s been a longer-running behind-the-scenes effort. Neither Clinton considers politics their primary work these days — they’re staying busy with travel, writing projects, and foundation work — but according to a dozen people who’ve spoken with them directly in recent weeks, both have been quietly and steadily increasing their engagement with Washington as the election season heats up.

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