New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand has seen her profile as a contender for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination rise after she called for President Donald Trump to resign over sexual misconduct accusations and was attacked by Trump on Twitter in response.
Gillibrand, who has served in the Senate since 2009, has had her name floated as a possible candidate since last November. She has not indicated whether she is interested in running, telling New York Magazine in April, “I am running for the Senate in 2018.”
On Monday, Gillibrand told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour that Trump should step down over allegations of sexual assault. At least 16 women have accused Trump of sexual assault or harassment.
“These allegations are credible; they are numerous,” Gillibrand told CNN. “I’ve heard these women’s testimony, and many of them are heartbreaking.” She added that if Trump does not resign, Congress should investigate the accusations.
Trump lashed out at the New York senator Tuesday morning, tweeting, “Lightweight Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, a total flunky for Chuck Schumer and someone who would come to my office ‘begging’ for campaign contributions not so long ago (and would do anything for them), is now in the ring fighting against Trump. Very disloyal to Bill & Crooked-USED!”
Gillibrand responded on Twitter, “You cannot silence me or the millions of women who have gotten off the sidelines to speak out about the unfitness and shame you have brought to the Oval Office.”
She added at a news conference, “It was a sexist smear attempting to silence my voice, and I will not be silenced on this issue.”
The betting markets for the 2020 Democratic nominee responded to Gillibrand’s high profile exchange with the president on Tuesday. She gained 3 cents, which is akin to percentage points, in a significant move up, according to PredictIt. Gillibrand trails fellow Senators Kamala Harris and Bernie Sanders, who are both at 17 cents.
Another top contender who has sparred with Trump on Twitter and in public statements, Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, is also at 14 cents. She came to Gillibrand’s defense on Tuesday, tweeting, “Are you really trying to bully, intimidate and slut-shame @SenGillibrand? Do you know who you’re picking a fight with? Good luck with that, @realDonaldTrump. Nevertheless, #shepersisted.”
Other Democrats also defended Gillibrand.
Senator Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, a fellow New Yorker who was mentioned in Trump’s tweet, said on Twitter, “The President’s tweet today was nasty & unbecoming of a president. @SenGillibrand is an outstanding member of the Senate, & @realDonaldTrump needs to cut it out with the tweeting, period. He should stop tweeting & start leading.”
Rep. Jackie Speier, of California, told NBC News, “It is grotesque. It took my breath away. And it represents the conduct of a person who is ill-equipped to be the president of the United States.”
Senator Mazie Hirono said, “He’s a misogynist and admitted sexual predator and a liar. The only thing that will stop him from attacking us, because nobody is safe, is his resignation.”
Other Democrats and political analysts pointed out on social media that Trump was bringing attention to a possible opponent.
Former Obama speech writer and Crooked Media co-founder Jon Favreau, claimed victory in the Twitter feud for Gillibrand.
Liberal commentator Sally Cohn tweeted, “Silly @realDonaldTrump, setting up @SenGillibrand to be even more well-known and well-liked when she runs against him in 2020… G’head Donald, keep attacking your opponents as though you think it hurts them.”
Here are some of the other Twitter reactions:
Gillibrand also caught the eye of the GOP, which put out an opposition research briefing on her Tuesday, according to NPR’s Domenico Montanaro.
In the briefing, Republicans highlighted another aspect of Trump’s tweet, in which he said she was “very disloyal” to Bill Clinton. Gillibrand told the New York Times in November that she now thinks it would have been the “appropriate response” for Clinton to step down nearly 20 years ago.
“Things have changed today, and I think under those circumstances there should be a very different reaction,” Gillibrand told the Times. “And I think in light of this conversation, we should have a very different conversation about President Trump, and a very different conversation about allegations against him.”
A Democratic strategist told The Hill, “All this reeks of is political opportunism and that’s what defines Kirsten Gillibrand’s career. Why wasn’t she talking about Bill Clinton when he was helping her during her various races for the House and Senate? And would she be talking about Bill Clinton today if Hillary Clinton was president? I think we all know the answer.”
She was also attacked by longtime Clinton aide Phillipe Reines on Twitter, who wrote, “Ken Starr spent $70 million on a consensual blowjob. Senate voted to keep POTUS WJC. But not enough for you @SenGillibrand?” Over 20 yrs you took the Clintons’ endorsements, money and seat. Hypocrite. Interesting strategy for 2020 primaries, best of luck.”
Gillibrand would also have to overcome questions about her ties to Wall Street and her past as a “Blue Dog” Democrat with conservative-leaning ideas. Since entering the Senate, Gillibrand has become more liberal, leading the fight for paid family leave and advocating for gun control, along with taking on the sexual assault problem in the military. She has also been a Democratic leader in the fight against President Trump, voting against many of his Cabinet nominees.
She will also have to deal some anger over her call for Senator Al Franken to resign, which led to a wave of fellow women senators calling for Franken to step aside and his eventual resignation.
Earlier this week, and prior to Trump’s attack, Jill Filipovic wrote in Cosmopolitan about the “sexist skewering” of Gillibrand from the left.
“Gillibrand now stands accused of being craven, disloyal, and cynically using this moment to build her brand and put herself in the national spotlight,” Filipovic wrote. “Maybe she is – welcome to being a politician. Or maybe she’s just doing her job, but being pilloried for it because she’s widely believed to be considering a run against Donald Trump in 2020 – and as we learned in 2016, Americans remain remarkably hostile to women seeking power.”
Filipovic wrote that Gillibrand is facing similar obstacles that Hilary Clinton did.
“Taking aggressive positions and putting oneself in the spotlight may be normal and admirable for male politicians, but in women it’s often seen as attention-seeking and power-grabbing – we like our women quiet and working hard behind the scenes,” she wrote. “At the same time, women face expectations that we will be more moral and high-minded than our male counterparts. That a male politician might do something for political gain is to be expected; if a female politician appears to be making a carefully calculated decision, taking her political ambitions into account, she’s craven and devious.”
She added, “the tarring of her has taken on a notably gendered tone, and is both a depressing kind of 2016 deja vu and a concerning precursor to what women vying for the presidency might still face in 2020.