Mention Hillary Clinton's name to someone in politics, and chances are the reaction will be strong, pro or con.
Even since she was first lady during the presidency of her husband Bill Clinton, she has inspired powerful feelings. And this week, Clinton fever is reaching new heights as speculation about her possible 2016 presidential campaign goes off the charts.
The cause was Clinton's lunch meeting with President Obama at the White House on Monday. No one revealed what they talked about over a meal of grilled chicken, pasta jambalaya and salad. But, in addition to discussing foreign policy (Clinton, after all, served as Obama's secretary of state for four years), my hunch is that the next presidential campaign and the current state of American politics surely came up.
Cable TV and the Internet are filled with Hillary talk, and it was announced that a TV miniseries and a separate documentary are being made about her life.
A few months ago, Clinton friends said she was eager for a rest after many years in the public eye as the spouse of a presidential candidate, as first lady, U.S. senator from New York, and America's top diplomat. But judging from her speaking schedule and level of activity these days, she seems ready for the spotlight again.
Friends say she hasn't made up her mind about 2016. A big factor, they say, is whether she feels she would have the drive and the energy to run what promises to be another grueling race.
She suffered an embarrassing defeat to Obama in the 2008 Democratic campaign after entering the contest as the prohibitive favorite, which is the position she would be in if she runs in 2016. Some question her age, but at 69 she would be about a year younger if she became president than Ronald Reagan was when he took office in January 1981.
I've known Hillary Clinton for 20 years, and through her adult life she has been drawn to public service and felt the need to break one glass ceiling for women after another. She knows winning the presidency is the ultimate challenge, and I find it hard to believe she will resist the chance to give it one more try.
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 "The Presidency" column for the U.S. News Weekly. He is the author of the new book "Prisoners of the White House: The Isolation of America's Presidents and the Crisis of Leadership." Ken Walsh can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Facebook and Twitter.