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What, exactly, is Tulsi Gabbard doing?

Two very interesting things happened Thursday night:

1) Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, a Democrat, announced she would not seek reelection, choosing instead to focus all her energies on her longshot 2020 presidential bid.

2) She skipped a Latino candidate forum in Iowa, spending that time instead on Sean Hannity’s show on Fox News, running down House Democrats’ impeachment inquiry. “I don’t know what’s going on in those closed doors,” Gabbard told Hannity. “We as members of Congress do not have access to the information that’s being shared. I think the American people deserve to know exactly what the facts are, what the evidence is being presented as this inquiry goes on.”

Like I said: Interesting!

To be clear: Gabbard is very, very unlikely to be the Democratic presidential nominee. She is polling at 1.3% in the Real Clear Politics average of all the polling conducted in the 2020 primary and is nearly certain to miss the coming November debate.

So the decision to walk away from her House seat — even though, had she run again, she would have faced a serious primary fight from state Sen. Kai Kahele — is an odd one. Assuming Gabbard goes nowhere in the Democratic presidential race — as seems likely — she will have no platform on which to push her issues (and herself) in roughly one year’s time.

What, then, is her plan, exactly?

The obvious answer is a third-party presidential bid — thanks to Gabbard’s much-documented discontent with the party establishment (she resigned as a vice chair of the Democratic National Committee in 2016 amid the hacking scandal) and her strong disapproval of American military involvement in foreign countries. (Gabbard drew huge amounts of criticism for her meeting with Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad in 2017 and her insistence that he is “not the enemy of the United States.”)

Hillary Clinton alleged in a recent podcast interview with Democratic strategist David Plouffe that someone in the Democratic field was being groomed to be a third-party candidate — presumably a reference to Gabbard.

Gabbard has rejected Clinton’s argument but has not — at least as far as I can tell — entirely ruled out a third-party bid.

But, let me lay out one more possibility: Gabbard may well be angling for a long-term spot on Fox News once she leaves Congress.

She has been a regular guest on the network for several years now. In a Daily Beast piece titled “Why Conservative Media and the Far Right Love Tulsi Gabbard for President,” Maxwell Tani and Kelly Weill wrote:

“Gabbard first became an in-demand Fox News guest in 2015 after she criticized Barack Obama’s unwillingness to use the label ‘radical Islamic terrorism.’ Her media tour explaining that position earned her positively-tilted coverage in right-wing outlets like Breitbart and The Daily Caller—a trend that continued when she later expressed skepticism of Obama’s Iran nuclear deal.

“One person with direct knowledge told The Daily Beast that in the wake of her Obama criticism of Obama, Gabbard became an increasingly requested guest for Fox News hosts and producers to appear on-air.”

Gabbard’s willingness to echo GOP talking points on impeachment (This is all happening behind closed doors! This isn’t transparent!) has made her an even more frequent guest on Fox’s airwaves.

And with the network’s lineup still in a bit of flux — particularly after the surprise departure of Shepard Smith — Gabbard could be just the sort of face that Fox News would be very interested in promoting.

In truth, no one who isn’t Gabbard knows exactly what she’s planning. But it seems clear from the last few days that she’s planning something.

CNN