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The Myths and Facts of a Possible Hillary Clinton Presidential Candidacy

In the contest for most enjoyable political Tumblr–essentially a photo blog conducive to snapshot satire–of the season, the stiffest competition faced by the runaway leader “Newt Judges You” came, surprisingly, from one devoted to Hillary Clinton. Even more surprisingly, it portrayed her convincingly as endlessly cool–an impression all the more cemented by Clinton’s handwritten note of appreciation to the previously obscure creators.

This coolness factor has only increased speculation that Clinton may still be interested in running for president in 2016. Time’s Michael Crowley dives into the debate, noting–correctly–that Clinton seems to have washed away the ill will of her Democratic Party rivals from the bitter 2008 campaign in her term as the embattled president’s secretary of state. But I think Crowley, in turns, overestimates Clinton’s appeal as well as one of the obstacles in her way. He writes:

She’s pulled off the neat trick of being a loyal soldier to Obama while restoring her own poll numbers to record highs. And she’s won high marks for her performance as secretary of state — perhaps in part because she has managed, whether through accident or design, not to get bogged down in some of the Obama administration’s thorniest foreign policy challenges, including the Israeli-Arab conflict and the Iran nuclear showdown.

Will Clinton run in 2016? Who knows? Party insiders certainly don’t rule it out, though they tend to say it probably depends on whether Obama wins a second term. It’s easier for her if he doesn’t, especially because she won’t have to challenge a sitting Vice President.

It’s true that last year Clinton’s job approval hit 66 percent. But while she certainly has done some things right, her job approval mirrors that of her predecessors. That Gallup poll was accompanied by a description of previous secretaries of state, and Clinton’s numbers were right around those of Condoleezza Rice and Madeleine Albright. They come nowhere close, however, to Colin Powell’s approval ratings at Foggy Bottom, which were consistently in the 80s, reaching a high of 88 percent. This is no knock on Clinton, but there is no guarantee–indeed it is unlikely–that her high approval ratings would follow her back into the political sphere, where she has always been considered an especially divisive figure.

Whether or not it would be easier for Clinton to run in 2016 if President Obama loses this year would depend greatly on the first term of his would-be Republican successor. It’s also possible that an Obama victory this year could hurt Clinton’s chances in 2016 because it is difficult for any party to win the White House three times in a row.

Contra Crowley, however, having to compete for her party’s nomination with Joe Biden would be a gift from the heavens for Clinton. First of all, Biden’s approval ratings now, at a time when his gobsmacking inability to speak coherently is relegated to the vice presidential sideshow, is 46 percent, according to that same Gallup poll. Biden’s racially insensitive remarks about African-Americans and Indian-Americans and his other horrific displays of unfiltered logorrhea are either papered over by a friendly media or dismissed with a condescending pat on the head. It would be difficult to ignore him if he were in any position to win his party’s nomination for president.

He was put on the ticket in 2008 ostensibly for his “foreign policy experience,” though his relevant ideas turn out to be excruciatingly half-baked, indecipherable, or just plain wrong. Hillary Clinton would face several challenges if she decides to run for president again. Running against Joe Biden would not be one of them.


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