NEW YORK — Congresswoman Clinton? President Clinton?
For now, Chelsea Clinton insists she's focused far less on her political future than on burnishing her profile as an author of children's books.
The former first daughter embarked Tuesday on a six-state book tour that was scheduled back when she believed her mother was on the way to the White House. But with Hillary Clinton's political career possibly over following a devastating presidential election loss to Donald Trump, people can't stop speculating about whether the younger Clinton intends to take up the family business.
Those closest to Chelsea Clinton say she maintains a passion for public service but has only just begun to contemplate her role in a future that doesn't include President Hillary Clinton.
"There's lots of TBDs in Chelsea's future," Clinton chief of staff Bari Lurie said, using the acronym for "to be determined." ''But right now she's very clear: One of those TBDs is not running for office."
There's been no internal polling about her political prospects, no private discussions with political consultants. No one scheduled the book tour — to promote the paperback release of "It's Your World," aimed at middle-school students — thinking it would be an effective vehicle to launch a political run. She's also preparing to release in May an illustrated children's book that celebrates female leaders.
Chelsea Clinton was blunt in a Tuesday interview with "CBS This Morning" but left the door open a crack when asked whether she was running for public office.
"No, no, no," Clinton said, noting that she's pleased with her state and local public officials in New York.
"I clearly don't agree with our president, but I'm definitely not the right person to run to defeat him in 2020," she continued. "So right now, the answer is no. But I think we all need to be asking ourselves that question periodically."
At the opening stop in her book tour Tuesday, the 37-year-old Clinton told those gathered in a crowded Manhattan bookstore she was just 3 or 4 the first time someone asked if she would run for office.
"I think it's actually a gift to be asked that question," she said, suggesting everyone should be encouraged to seek public office.
The comments come as her mother's political standing reaches new lows. In December, more than 60 per cent of Democrats and independents said Hillary Clinton shouldn't run again for office, according to a Suffolk University/USA Today poll.
Political operatives in New York say Chelsea Clinton, who lives in Manhattan, may have more options than her mother's poor numbers suggest.
"The brand here is still pretty strong," said Jefrey Pollock, a New York-based Democratic pollster, referring to the liberal city and its suburbs. "For right now, if there's a future, it's going to be something more local than national."
And while Tuesday's book tour stop was sold out, there were signs of Clinton fatigue even among the New York Democrats lined up early to get good seats.
"Democrats need a leader," said Susan Conrad, an artist. "I don't see Chelsea as that person."
Conrad's friend Gillian Wells agreed.
"I'm glad she's staying in the public eye. But this would not be a good time for her to run," the interior architect said. "Maybe in a few years."
Chelsea Clinton continues to serve as vice chairwoman of the board at the Clinton Foundation, an unpaid position that puts her at the centre of decisions about the foundation's future. Among other responsibilities, she plays an active role in fundraising, promotion and program evaluation.
She's also teaching a class on global health governance at Columbia University and recently joined the board of the internet travel site Expedia.
And she's eager to speak out against the Republican president's policies.
Last week, she warned during a televised fundraiser for the American Civil Liberties Union that Republican-backed voter ID laws are threatening the right to vote.
Over the weekend, she tweeted a link to the Los Angeles Times headline "Our Dishonest President." And on Monday, she posted a message to her 1.6 million Twitter followers highlighting the Trump administration's plan to cut funding at the Environmental Protection Agency.
"She's made it very clear: 'I can care deeply and fight for issues I'm passionate about and not be running for public office,'" Lurie said.
Steve Peoples, The Associated Press