Hillary Clinton Has Been M.I.A. Lately -- and Here’s Why

PHOTO: Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton at a Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce luncheon in Winnipeg, Canada, Jan. 21, 2015.John Woods/The Canadian Press/AP Photo
Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton at a Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce luncheon in Winnipeg, Canada, Jan. 21, 2015.

At a time when many potential 2016 presidential contenders appear to be starting the ignition of their campaigns, Hillary Clinton has pressed the brake pedal.

Or so it seems.

Clinton’s calendar, which was jam-packed throughout most of last year with paid speeches, award ceremonies, fundraisers, book tour stops, campaign appearances and official Clinton Foundation business, is now virtually empty.

Over the past six weeks, the likely Democratic presidential candidate has made just two public appearances -– both on the same day, and both in Canada. She doesn’t have another event scheduled until late next month.

Although Clinton still insists she hasn’t decided whether she’ll run, it is widely believed that she will, and an announcement is expected this spring.

Until then, Clinton appears to be lying low and staying out of the public eye. Meanwhile, much of the focus has turned toward potential Republican candidates like Mitt Romney, Jeb Bush and Rand Paul. A dozen others tested out their possible stump speeches at a summit in Iowa last weekend.

A Clinton spokesman declined to comment on reasons for her light public schedule. But, according to Democratic strategists and Clinton insiders, this is exactly how it should be.

Here’s why:

Playing It Safe

After a rocky book rollout last summer and a few flubs on the midterm campaign trail, some see Clinton as politically rusty. Keeping out of the spotlight now lowers the chances of making mistakes that could come back to haunt her later.

“Why take the risk?” said one prominent Democrat with ties to Clinton, who requested anonymity in order to speak candidly about Clinton’s vulnerabilities. “The more you’re out there -- I don’t care how prepared you are or how experienced you are -- she’s going to slip up.”

But, the source added, it’s about the optics, too. And her high-dollar speaking fees aren’t a good look for a potential presidential candidate.

The closer Clinton gets to an announcement, “the more she really needs to pay attention to the arguments that she’s going to make about the economy, and other issues. And doing speeches for $250,000 a pop will detract from that,” the source said.

Above the Fray

By lowering her profile, Clinton has avoided what Democratic strategist and ABC News contributor Donna Brazile described as “day-to-day, flash and burn politics.”

"There’s no reason Hillary Clinton should be involved in what I call partisan, insular, inside-the-beltway politics,” Brazile explained. “She doesn’t need to be a part of what happens in Obama’s White House and the Republican Congress. Her campaign is not predicated on what budget decision they make now, or what compromise they forge.”

This also gives Clinton the ability to cherry pick when she wants to weigh in. Recently, for instance, Clinton sent out unsolicited tweets criticizing Republicans attempts to roll back financial reform laws in Congress and supporting President Obama following the State of the Union.

Clinton can swing this because she is technically still a private citizen.

Party Timing

At this point in 2007, Clinton had already announced her candidacy, but the playing field was different: There was a Republican president and Democrats were the opposition.

There is no upside, some strategists say, to coming out early when your own party occupies the White House.

“If Clinton were out there right now, they’d say, ‘What is she doing?’” Brazile said. “What advantage does she have in this battle?”

This time around, Republicans have more of a reason to be out there early.

Gearing Up, Getting Ready

Another likely reason Hillary Clinton is limiting her public events: To focus on her behind-the-scenes operation.

In recent weeks, Clinton has begun staffing up, hiring longtime strategists and former Obama advisers to be part of her senior leadership team. She’s been digging into her 2007 polling numbers. And, as the Washington Post reported, she has been holding daily strategy meetings in her Chappaqua, New York, home.

“She’s hunkered down, preparing, and making a decision," said one Clinton insider with knowledge of the situation, “The idea that she’s off the radar, laying low, precludes the fact that she’s working really hard and being very much the Hillary Clinton that everyone knows."

Because She Can

A break from the public, strategists say, is a luxury Clinton can afford at the moment.

Unlike lesser known candidates, Clinton doesn’t have to make a name for herself. Plus, Clinton has outside groups -- like Ready for Hillary and Correct the Record— doing some of the early organizing work for her. This allows her to focus on other things like spending time with her family and preparing for what’s to come.

Because, as one top Clinton donor noted, “The day she announces, she’ll be ready to go” -- and squarely in the spotlight.