Senator Kirsten Gillibrand on Thursday gave her strongest public indication yet that she was contemplating a run for president in 2020, telling the late-night show host Stephen Colbert she would “give it a long, hard thought of consideration.”
“I’ve seen the hatred and the division that President Trump has put out into our country, and it has called me to fight as hard as I possibly can to restore the moral compass of this country,” Ms. Gillibrand, Democrat of New York, said in what sounded like the makings of a campaign theme.
Ms. Gillibrand, who won re-election to her second full term on Tuesday, had for months brushed aside questions about her 2020 ambitions by saying she was focused fully on 2018.
But with the midterms behind her, Mr. Colbert asked Ms. Gillibrand if there was “another election that you might be concentrating on.” She closed her eyes, smiled and nodded almost knowingly before answering.
“I do think it’s an important question,” she said.
Colbert jumped in: “It is an important question. That’s why I asked it.”
She called it “a moral question for me,” before eventually saying: “I believe right now that every one of us should figure out how we can do whatever we can with our time, with our talents to restore that moral decency, that moral compass and that truth of who we are as Americans. So I will promise you I will give it a long, hard thought of consideration.”
“That close,” Mr. Colbert joked.
The remarks represent a notable shift for Ms. Gillibrand.
Less than three weeks ago, in the lone debate of her re-election campaign, Ms. Gillibrand pledged to serve her full Senate term.
“I will serve my six-year term,” she said. (Her Republican opponent, Chele Farley, replied, “Honestly, I don’t believe that.”)
Ms. Gillibrand’s appearance on “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert” came on her first stop in a heavy media tour following the midterms. She also has appearances scheduled on “Good Morning America,” “The View” and “The Daily Show,” and other cable news appearances are in the works.
The media blitz coincides with the publication of an illustrated children’s book she wrote, “Bold & Brave: Ten Heroes Who Won Women the Right to Vote.” It is set to be released Nov. 13.
Ms. Gillibrand has planned a small book tour, which includes stops in Washington, D.C., Northern Virginia, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Albany and New York City through mid-December.
Ms. Gillibrand, who was appointed to the Senate in 2009 to replace Hillary Clinton after Mrs. Clinton was nominated as secretary of state, won roughly two-thirds of the vote in her election on Tuesday. The 3.73 million votes she received were the most for any candidate in New York this year — nearly 400,000 more than Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, a fellow Democrat who is also considered a potential presidential candidate. He just won election to a third term as governor and has denied interest in a 2020 run.
Ms. Gillibrand spent minimally on her campaign. Her campaign chest actually grew from the beginning of the year through October, the opposite direction of most bank accounts during campaigns. She has more than $10.6 million in the bank, all of which could be used to jump-start a presidential run.
Unlike some possible 2020 contenders, like Senator Cory Booker, Democrat of New Jersey, who visited multiple key early primary states this fall, Ms. Gillibrand took only one trip to New Hampshire, where she campaigned for the Democratic candidate for governor in October.
The Democratic presidential primary is expected to be unusually crowded. In an interview during her New Hampshire trip, Ms. Gillibrand suggested that as many as eight Democratic senators could run for president in 2020, though she made clear she was not counting closely.
“I wouldn’t be surprised,’’ she said at the time. “People do not like President Trump and they are concerned and they would like to change that.”