By Maria Young
US President Barack Obama has barely scratched the surface of his second term in office, a scant 79 days, and already, the finicky American public is practically salivating over speculation that former first lady, US senator, and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, will try to succeed him in 2016.
“Do I think she will run? Yes I do… Has there ever been a male candidate who was the odds-on favorite to be president and backed away? No, and so why should she be any different?” said Professor Chris Arterton, dean of the Graduate School of Political Management at George Washington University, in an interview with RIA Novosti.
“The historic nature of a Hillary presidency is kind of a completion of the transformation that began with Obama, the first African-American president, the first woman president, and a lot of people in this country are eager for that to happen,” he added.
Ready for Hillary (RFH), a super-PAC (political action committee), launched in January just days after Obama’s second inauguration speech, said on Wednesday it had more than 160,000 supporters who’ve pledged their support for a Hillary Clinton presidential run in 2016.
“One-thousand grassroots donors have contributed to our efforts, and this is even before we have made a direct ask for money. Both our large-dollar and small-dollar programs are running strong,” said RFH Communications Director Seth Bringman, a Clinton campaign veteran from 2008, in an interview with RIA Novosti. He said contributions would be reported in July, as required by law.
A poll released this week by The Hill newspaper found a majority of voters – 51 percent – think Hillary Clinton is running for president, and 41 percent believe she will be the Democratic nominee in 2016.
A poll released earlier this month from Public Policy Polling showed her leading other possible Democratic rivals including Vice President Joe Biden.
Indeed, she was treated like nothing short of a rock star on her final day as Secretary of State on Feb. 1, delivering a warm, sometimes emotional farewell speech to a packed State Department lobby full of cheering staffers and enamored onlookers.
Her first public appearance since then, at the Kennedy Center in Washington last week, was peppered with cries for “2016!” And a group of supporters gathered outside with “Ready for Hillary” signs.
The same thing happened when she spoke in New York City a few days later.
And Simon & Schuster added fuel to the growing frenzy on April 4 when it announced that it would publish a new Clinton book, her fifth, due out in 2014 for a reported $8 million.
The publishing firm called her a “trailblazer” and said in the book she would share “key decisions and experiences as Secretary of State and her ideas for how the United States can address the challenges of a dramatically changing world in the 21st century.”
All in all, things are looking very, very presidential for the woman most Americans refer to simply as “Hillary.”
“The fascination that Democrats in this country have for the Clintons is a complicated one. It has to do with President (Bill) Clinton, it has to do with the (Monica Lewinsky sex) scandal, and that of course affected the entire country’s view of the Clinton family,” said Marvin Kalb, a public policy expert and senior fellow at The Brookings Institution, a nonprofit public policy think tank in Washington, in an interview with RIA Novosti.
“Hillary at that time handled strong emotions on both sides, people approving of the way she stuck by her family,” he added.
But how would a run for office in 2016 be any different from her unsuccessful campaign for president in 2008, when she lost the Democratic nomination to Obama?
In several ways, said experts who spoke with RIA Novosti:
- Her time as Secretary of State added credibility, and helped position her as a seasoned leader around the world. According to the State Department, she logged more than 956,000 miles (1,538,533 kilometers) of travel and spent 401 days on the road during her four years as America’s chief diplomat.
- During that same time, for many Democrats, Obama hasn’t met expectations. The Hill poll found 32 percent of voters felt Clinton would have made a better president, and just 11 percent said she would have been worse.
- Her public image has warmed and her likability factor is off the charts compared to 2008, when she was a polarizing and divisive figure many saw as icy and ambitious. A Washington Post/ABC News poll in January found her approval rating among Americans at 67 percent, her highest rating ever.
- Her book is almost certain to be wildly popular and the book tour gives her an opportunity to travel the country in a kind of pre-campaign mode and avoid the high-fee public speaking engagements that can frame her as an elitist and make many of her grassroots supporters feel like outsiders.
- She made several key mistakes that are unlikely to be repeated.
“She ran an ad called ‘Ready from Day One.’ I think they were nervous inside the campaign about a woman being elected, a woman in charge of the military, having her hand on the nuclear trigger, and when Obama began to emerge and there was talk of him not being seasoned, against that background there was this ad, and somehow she became the establishment candidate.” said Arterton.
“I think that clearly she is in a much better circumstance than she was five years ago … If she runs this time, the nomination is hers,” he added.
Clinton herself has said she has no intention of running for president again, telling ABC News in December, “I really don’t believe that’s something I will do again.” More recently, she has laughed when asked – as she often is – about her plans.
A successful Clinton White House bid, said Kalb, would be good for US-Russian relations, but it would be more like Ronald Reagan’s “prove it” approach than a relationship based on fanciful illusions.
“She is at her core a tough politician and she is not one who has any romantic beliefs about Russia. If you could somehow work with Russia, and that means Putin, then you are going to get somewhere, but if you are antagonistic you’ll get nowhere,” he said. “Hillary is someone who could make a deal with Putin.”