Recently, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton was asked in an interview whether or not she would run for President again. The Secretary’s response was her characteristic laugh followed by a seemingly definitive “No, No, No!”.
But is that really her final decision?
In 2006, then Senator Clinton was running for a second term in the Senate, but the real question was not wether or not she would be re-elected, she faced only token opposition in a very blue state. The real question was wether or not she would be a candidate for the 2008 Democratic Presidential nomination. Her answer usually was that she intended to focus on being a Senator from New York and had no other plans.
So you’ll forgive me, Madam Secretary, if I don’t believe you when you say your not running again.
In the interest of full disclosure, I should mention that I supported Senator Clinton in her Senate and Presidential bids and voted for her in both her re-election campaign and the Democratic primary for President last year. However my previous support for Mrs. Clinton will have no bearing on this article (looks around to make sure noone can see the fingers crossed behind my back).
Noone knows for sure what the future holds for Secretary Clinton. I doubt even she can say for certain what she will or won’t do seven years from now. It seems a little odd to me that the woman who made 18 million cracks in the highest glass ceiling would be content to retire and leave the breaking of that ceiling to someone else. And glass ceiling or no glass ceiling, it’s no secret that Hillary has had her eye on the presidency for some time. Would she really just walk away from all that after having come so close the first time around?
It’s not like Secretary Clinton doesn’t have a base of support. Her many supporters from last years election are chomping at the bit to get her back in the race and finish the job they started. And while many of then Senator Obama’s supporters grew to dislike her during the bitter primary battle, her forceful campaigning for him in the general election against John McCain, her rousing speech at the party’s convention in Denver, which is widely credited with galvanizing her supporters around Obama (though Sarah Palin’s nomination as the GOP’s Vice Presidential candidate also helped on that front.), and her loyalty to the President in the nine months since she became the nation’s top diplomat have helped to mend many of those fences. A recent poll even found that she is now more popular than President Obama. Clinton is seen favorably by 62% of those polled while Obama stands at 56% and both of them rate about 90% among registered Democrats (obviously a good thing if you want to win the party primary). One can argue that if she were President, Mrs. Clinton might be suffering from some of the same problems Mr. Obama is having to deal with now and that the numbers, therefore, might be reversed. Let me argue that if Mrs. Clinton were President now, we probably wouldn’t be talking about her running in 2016, and there would be no article for you to read or argue about anyway.
One thing seems certain though. The 2016 battle for the Democratic presidential nomination will be crowded. President Obama is almost assured of being re-nominated in 2012, so 2016 will be the next big choice for Democrats, regardless of who occupies the White House at that time. The last incumbent VP to run for President was Al Gore in the infamous 2000 election. Gore’s nomination was almost assured as he faced only minor opposition for the nomination from former New Jersey Senator and basketball star Bill Bradley. Vice president Biden, however, does not seem to have the inside track that Gore had. He’s a twice failed Presidential candidate who’ll be 73 years old by the 2017 inauguration. If the Obama-Biden ticket is re-elected in 2012, I don’t think Mr. Biden will be as favored to win the nomination as Mr. Gore was. If the Obama-Biden ticket loses in 2012, Mr. Biden’s chances go down even more. The last time a situation like this played out was in the early 80’s. President Jimmy Carter and Vice President Walter Mondale suffered an embarrassing defeat at the hands of Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush. Four years later, now former Vice President Mondale won the Democratic party’s nomination but he and his running mate, New York Representative Geraldine Ferraro, suffered an even more embarrassing defeat winning only Mondale’s home state of Minnesota and Washington, D.C. While Mondale and Biden have little in common and the elections would be separated by 32 years, Democrats may still be wary of running a recently rejected VP and having history repeat itself. Then there’s Biden’s age and history of health problems, a situation many Democrats saw as a liability for the then 72 year old McCain with his history of skin cancer in last years race. While Secretary Clinton wouldn’t be that much younger than Biden, she’ll be 68, she has not had any serious medical conditions and almost always seems full of energy.
There are plenty of other potential contenders for the 2016 nomination including Virginia Senator Mark Warner and Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer. Some have even talked about Clinton’s senate successor Kirsten Gillibrand. But Clinton would still be a heavy favorite should she decide to take another shot at it. Ultimately, the final decision belongs to one person and one person alone, Hillary Clinton, but I would take any statements she may make between now and 2015 (which is when the candidates will probably start to assemble their campaigns.) with a grain of salt.
Hillary Clinton says she won’t run for president again
Poll: Hillary Clinton more popular than Barack Obama