Following Donald Trump's surprise visit to Mexico City to meet with President Enrique Peña Nieto on Wednesday, Mexicans are wondering if Hillary Clinton will follow her Republican challenger's lead across the border.
Peña Nieto said he invited both candidates over for a chat, but only got one RSVP in return. Will Clinton send hers next?
The Clinton campaign confirmed they had received a letter from Peña Nieto but did not give further details on a potential meeting.
“Secretary Clinton last met with President Peña Nieto in Mexico in 2014 and our campaign is in a regular dialogue with Mexican government officials. She looks forward to talking with President Peña Nieto again at the appropriate time,” a Clinton aide told Fusion in an email when asked if the Democratic candidate would also make the trip south.
For now it's unclear if the “appropriate time” will come during or after the campaign. Instead the Clinton camp is criticizing Trump's performance in Mexico.
"Donald Trump has made his outlandish policy of forcing Mexico to pay for his giant wall the centerpiece of his campaign. But at the first opportunity to make good on his offensive campaign promises, Trump choked,” said Clinton campaign chair John Podesta in a press release. “What we saw today from a man who claims to be the ultimate ‘deal maker’ is that he doesn’t have the courage to advocate for his campaign promises when he’s not in front of a friendly crowd.”
But would Clinton benefit from visiting the Mexican president during her campaign?
Peña Nieto probably would. If Clinton did decide to go it would help the Mexican president justify his meeting with Trump by showing that his invitation was in fact about opening a dialogue with both candidates, and not just a failed attempt to mollify Trump's hardline stance on immigration.
But it's unclear what incentives Clinton would have for making her own quick trip to Mexico. The Democrat already has a big lead in the polls with Latinos voters in the U.S., and has the support of Mexicans in Mexico by virtue of being Trump's opponent.
Plus, Clinton doesn’t have to prove that she can act diplomatic or presidential. As secretary of state she's met many world leaders already. A handshake with Peña Nieto, an unpopular president tied to a series of security and corruption scandals in Mexico, isn't exactly the boost Clinton is looking for right now.
The press could also give Clinton trouble if she goes to Mexico. The media might ask her about corruption scandals in Mexico, the flow of firearms across the border, the NAFTA free-trade agreement signed by her husband, the U.S.' position on the disappearance of the 43 students from Ayotzinapa, or the pending extradition of drug lord Chapo Guzmán. Any words that she utters on any of those touchy issues in Mexico would provide fodder for media headlines for days—and not necessarily the type Clinton wants.
Clinton, as Secretary of State, showed signs that she understood the importance of Mexico as a partner to the U.S. But a trip to Mexico right now would involve many risks and few returns. There’s always the incentive of building a bridge with a neighboring country, but for now she appears to be prioritizing the election over diplomacy.