Early Polls Show Her Leading Potential Challengers for 2016
The close of Hillary Clinton’s tenure as Secretary of State will start one of the most watched political retirements since Richard Nixon.
When Nixon lost California’s 1962 governor’s race just two years after losing the presidency, he famously told reporters, “You won’t have Nixon to kick around anymore because, gentlemen, this is my last press conference.”
Clinton steps away with decidedly more sympathetic press, ending a widely regarded turn as America’s top diplomat. But at the same time, she’s keeping her supporters hoping for another run at the presidency by dismissing talk of “retirement.”
“Well, I don’t know if that’s the world I would use,” Clinton says. “Certainly stepping off the very fast track for a little while.”
Nixon used his time outside Washington to speak abroad, write a best-selling book, raise money for fellow Republicans, and campaign for party candidates in mid-term elections.
In 1968, that support made him the clear front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination and helped turn back primary challenges from three popular governors on his way to winning the White House.
Should she run for president in 2016, Clinton would likely pursue a similar path — speaking about social issues, including maternal and child health, while campaigning for Democrats much as she did ahead of her 2008 run for the presidency.
Candidates and their best-sellers
Already a best-selling author for It Takes a Village and the autobiography Living History, Ms. Clinton he could use another book (and the sure-to-be-hefty advance) to set up her campaign narrative, much as Barack Obama used his book, The Audacity of Hope.
Clinton leaves the State Department more popular than she was four years ago, with near-universal name recognition, and with the gratitude of the president — both for her own diplomacy and for her husband’s 2012 convention speech and campaigning on his behalf.
If the Obama administration ends well, Clinton benefits from having helped shape its foreign policy. If the Obama administration ends poorly, Clinton benefits from having gotten out when she did.
Washington chatter about another Clinton presidential campaign grew louder with her decision to step down at the start of the president’s second term. She’s kept that buzz going while insisting that she presently has no interest in further elected office.
Publicly reminiscing with deputy chief of staff Jake Sullivan, Clinton recalls telling her husband about “this incredibly bright rising star – Rhodes Scholar, Yale Law School. And my husband said, ‘Well, if he ever learns to play the saxophone, watch out.’ ”
“Now we travel all over the world together and people say how excited they are to meet a potential future president of the United States.” Pause. “And of course they mean Jake.”
If Clinton does run, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich says his Republican Party “is incapable of competing at that level.”
“First of all, she’s very formidable as a person,” Gingrich told NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “She’s a very competent person. She’s married to the most popular Democrat in the country. They both think [it] would be good for her to be president. It makes it virtually impossible to stop her for the nomination.”
A formidable competitor
In a hypothetical 2016 race, Clinton leads most prospective Republican opponents by double digits, according to Public Policy Polling. She is up 51 percent to 37 percent over former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, 51 percent to 37 percent over Florida Senator Marco Rubio, and 53 percent to 39 percent percent over Mitt Romney’s running mate, Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan.
Only New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is within the poll’s margin of error, trailing Clinton by just two points. But Christie has problems with leaders of his own party for the common-man frankness that makes him popular, for praising the president’s response to Hurricane Sandy ahead of November’s vote and for criticizing lawmakers delaying relief funds.
The poll of 1,100 American voters shows Clinton well out in front of Vice President Joe Biden for the 2016 Democratic nomination, 57 percent to 16 percent.
But as Clinton prepares to slow down, at least for the short term, the vice president is starting the second term with a decidedly higher-profile — stepping in to save negotiations with congressional Republicans over the so-called “fiscal cliff” and leading the president’s very public drive for tougher gun control.
Clinton loyalists don’t fear facing Biden again. (He got less than one percent in the 2008 Iowa caucus.) But they are mindful of his blue-collar appeal.
“As my dad has said publicly, that’s not something that he’s focused on for the next several months and years,” Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden told the MSNBC television network. “Look, would I think my dad would make a great president in 2016 and going forward? Of course.”
Leaving his polling station on Election Day last November, Biden was asked if that was the last time he’d vote for himself. His answer: “I don’t think so.”
If he chooses to run, Biden has some history on his side. The last time a sitting U.S. vice president sought his party’s nomination and lost was 1952.
Like Biden, Harry Truman’s vice president, Alben Barkley, was a long-serving senator in his 70’s who knew how to fire up a crowd. The Democratic Party dropped him from the ticket altogether, choosing instead the younger Illinois Governor Adlai Stevenson and the more conservative Alabama Senator John Sparkman.
They lost badly to World War II general Dwight Eisenhower and the new California Senator Richard Nixon.