She’s the most popular federal official in the United States. She came closer to derailing Barack Obama than John McCain or Mitt Romney. Some say she wants the Presidency more than anyone else. Others say she just wants to be left alone. Many conservatives loathe her, but most liberals adore her. She has been a near-constant force in American politics for the past twenty years, from her time as First Lady, to Senator from New York, to Presidential candidate, to Secretary of State. All eyes are on her for 2016. Yet, she has been uniquely restricted by the past four years, and uniquely vague about the next four years. Last summer, for example, at the Democratic National Convention, where was she? The one person most likely to be giving the 2016 acceptance speech in four years wasn’t even there, because the Secretary of State is prohibited from attending political activities, such as party conventions. Hillary’s current positioning may do her more harm than good in two years, should she choose to run again. But Presidential campaigns are exhausting, life-draining, two-year ordeals. Will she want to undergo another one of those?
The Democrats’ Mitt Romney…
At first glance, Hillary Clinton isn’t just positioned to win the Democratic nomination; she’s positioned to win the election of 2016 altogether. According to Public Policy Polling data collected from November 30 to December 2, 2012 (http://www.publicpolicypolling.com/main/2012/12/clinton-rubio-2016.html#more), Clinton has a 57% favorability rating among all Americans, higher than any other politician in the United States. Perhaps even more heartening for any Clinton supporters: only 36% disapprove of her. However, this is actually a danger. Like the Republicans in 2012, the Democratic primary will be defined by Clinton versus a gaggle of anti-Clintons. After all, the nomination is hers to lose. Over 60% of Democrats sampled prefer Mrs. Clinton, more than they prefer Vice President Biden, Governor Cuomo, or any other blue politician. However, there’s a real risk here. Some in the Democratic Party, should President Obama’s second term turn out poorly, will be looking for an outsider, someone not associated with the administration. So, they’ll look to Cuomo in New York or Patrick in Massachusetts to bail them out. The Democratic candidates will spend all of their time damaging Clinton instead of each other, potentially laying a solid foundation for Republican criticism. Hillary Clinton is undoubtedly taking this into account as she makes her decision.
…or the next Obama?
President Obama’s re-election campaign proves that the new way to win is through the perfect mixture of money, message, and minorities. Clinton, with a broad network of donors, will certainly not lack on the money side, should she choose to run. What about message? Among self-described moderates polled in the same Public Policy Polling report, Clinton has a favorability rating of 76%, 19 points higher than her rating among the entire sample. This shows that Clinton is well-positioned to win over middle-ground Democrats who feel increasingly alienated by their party’s more liberal crowd, and also independents in the general election. As for minorities? Here, Clinton is a standout among other potential candidates. Among Hispanic and African-American voters, her favorability ratings are 61% and 83%, respectively. By comparison, Marco Rubio, who some in the GOP think would help break into the Hispanic vote, has a favorability rating among Hispanics of only 24%, or 37 points less than that of Clinton. Minorities and moderates are the electoral king-makers in this country. And Hillary has a fairly good shot with them.
Caution: Benghazi and Monica
However, there are still some obstacles for Hillary. The consequences of her tenure at the State Department have not yet effected her perception in the public eye. Clinton is rightfully open to criticism regarding the Benghazi disaster, the timid U.S. response to chaos in Syria, and absolutely no progress towards a lasting agreement between Israel and the Palestinian Territories. There’s also Mr. Clinton, and all of his baggage. Reportedly, Bill’s former mistress, Monica Lewinsky, plans on publishing a new book sometime within the next few years. And although many sources close to Lewinsky have said that the book isn’t about the Clinton affair, it can only remind people of what happened. That can do a Clinton 2016 campaign no good, only harm.
Will She Do It?
No one really knows what Hillary Clinton will decide at this point. She’s been in the highest tier of American political power for over twenty years now, and may be getting tired of it. Campaigns these days are long and hard affairs, lasting almost two years of stump speeches, handshaking, news interviews, and attack ads. Clinton wouldn’t be out of her mind if she wanted to avoid all of that. But what’s most important is this: To Hillary, is the end worth the means? Does she wants the Presidency that much, badly enough to devote years of her life to getting and then keeping it? Only Hillary Clinton knows the answer to that question. I just want the media to stop acting like they know too.
Do you think Hillary will run for President in 2016? Do you think she could win? Do you think she should win? Your comments are encouraged and appreciated!