Hillary Clinton's future is causing a new round of buzz in Washington and in Democratic circles around the country as she approaches the end of her term as secretary of state.
Clinton says she will step down early next year but remains a popular political figure at home and abroad. Clinton says she isn't running for president in 2016. But some of her friends and former advisers tell me that this disavowal is an indication of her temporary weariness after two difficult decades in public life at the highest levels than a declaration of her presidential intentions. She needs time to rest and ruminate, her friends and advisers say.
Sixty percent of Americans have a favorable impression of Clinton and only 35 percent have an unfavorable view of her, according to the latest Politico/George Washington University Battleground Poll. President Obama's favorable rating is 52 percent while 45 percent of Americans have an unfavorable impression of him. Obama is prohibited by the Constitution from serving a third term.
Clinton associates say she remains committed, above all, to improving the lives of women and children — longtime objectives from the start of her public career. And she would love to break the glass ceiling that has kept women from serving as president of the United States.
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich told NBC's Meet the Press that it would be "virtually impossible" for anyone to defeat Clinton for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2016 if she sought it. Gingrich also said Sunday that former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush could be the Republican nominee if he seeks the presidency, which could set up a family rematch of the 1992 election in which Bill Clinton defeated incumbent George H.W. Bush. Jeb Bush is George H.W. Bush's son and the brother of former President George W. Bush.
The New York Times carried a Page One article Sunday headlined, "Clinton's Countless Choices Hinge on One: 2016." The Times says Clinton plans to leave the State Department shortly after President Obama is inaugurated for a second term in January, then spend several months considering what to do next. The Washington Post featured Clinton prominently in a Sunday opinion article about the experiences of women serving as secretary of state, titled, "Feeling Typecast, Madam Secretary?"
And James Carville, former political adviser to Bill Clinton, said on ABC's This Week that while he doesn't know what Hillary Clinton will do, "I do know this: The Democrats want her to run. And I don't just mean a lot of Democrats. I mean a whole lot of Democrats — like 90 percent."
Clinton has served not only as secretary of state but as U.S. senator from New York and first lady, when she was a prominent adviser to her husband. She entered the 2008 presidential campaign as the favorite for the Democratic nomination but lost to Obama. However, Clinton retains a loyal following around the country, and would be a formidable candidate if she ran again.
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Ken Walsh covers the White House and politics for U.S. News. He writes the daily blog "Ken Walsh's Washington" for usnews.com, and is the author of "The Presidency" column for the U.S. News Weekly. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and followed on Facebook and Twitter.