Hillary Clinton's first paid speaking engagement since leaving the State Department is a good fit for anyone wanting to keep speculation aflame about a possible presidential candidacy. The speech April 24 to the National Multi-Housing Council board of directors meets several important criteria that she and her advisers will want to achieve:
- It provides her with a forum to address a large business organization (companies that own and manage apartment complexes). This could allow her to test some messages beyond the scope of foreign policy which has consumed her for the past four years.
- The NMHC is a relatively non-controversial group, so it won't polarize other observers or be used to cudgel her in the future as a speech to a social policy organization might.
- The speech is not open to the news media, so it helps mitigate the risk associated with any gaffes. Although, as we have seen in other supposedly closed events, there is no such thing as off-the-record any longer, and any major miscues will almost certainly be revealed.
- And somewhere in her speech will be an observation, a double entendre or a challenge to her audience that leaks out and which serves as a fresh squeeze of lighter fluid on those speculative flames.
And why not? This is good for the business of being Hillary Clinton, just as it would be good business for any of the other potential 2016 candidates, regardless of whether they are seriously contemplating White House runs.
Watching political campaigns shape up is more than a little like watching as low pressure systems develop over the Atlantic Ocean during hurricane season. Some people will begin making preparations immediately, but the truth is that most of these possibilities won't amount to very much.
The obvious and significant difference is that it doesn't matter to the low pressure system whether you, The Voter, think it will grow into a major storm. And this brings us back to Hillary Clinton—and just about everybody else with the initials Gov., Sen., or Rep. before his or her name—and what they are likely to be doing to whip key constituencies into a frothy speculative state between now and the first intraparty debates in 2015.
In the two months since she retired from her post as secretary of state, there has been an enormous amount of speculation over the likelihood that Clinton will seek the White House. It took Google about a quarter of a second to generate more than 23 million results for "Hillary Clinton 2016" on my computer Monday. At first I was impressed. Then I Googled "kitten videos" and got a number more than ten times as large. We can all draw our own conclusions as to the significance of this.
Since kittens are not eligible for high office, I decided to conduct additional (and thoroughly unscientific) Google research using several names that are beginning to be bandied about. Clinton's results dwarfed everyone else:
- "Hillary Clinton 2016": 23.4 million
- "Marco Rubio 2016": 7.6 million
- "Chris Christie 2016": 5.6 million
- "Rand Paul 2016": 4.5 million
- "Paul Ryan 2016": 4.5 million
- "Joe Biden 2016": 3.1 million
- "Martin O'Malley 2016": 0.4 million
Although not a measure of popularity, the number of hits does provide a glimpse as to the Internet buzz around each name
Regardless of whether any or all of the above are seriously contemplating a presidential run, they each have a strong interest in advancing speculation. It will cause them to be watched more closely and for their opinions to carry more weight. For some, such as Clinton, this will translate into hefty speaking fees, greater book sales and continuing relevance and influence from her private sector office.
This is not risk-free, of course. She will have to take care that the audiences she addresses are in sync with her political goals, and do something to ensure that a significant amount of the money she now makes goes toward supporting a cause or causes that are not only aligned with her interests, but which generate good will among 2016 voters.
Fortunately for Clinton and the rest of those in the potential candidate field, there is a large class of journalists, pundits, bloggers and political junkies, who cannot go very long between elections and who are willing to spend countless hours debating the 2016 campaign before the first ballots are cast.
- Read Jamie Stiehm: New Hillary Clinton Book Displays Her Diplomatic Strength
- Read Peter Roff: Indiana Vouchers March Education Reform Forward
- Check out U.S. News Weekly, now available on iPad