Will Hillary Clinton run for White House in 2016? She probably doesn’t know either

And most politicians say they don’t want to run for president. 

Questions:

1.  The unusual joint interview with President Obama didn’t bring any clear intentions or endorsements but anyway led to renewed speculation in the US media about Clinton’s running for President. Is it just that – speculation – or is there some rationality and probability in it as well?

2. Obama declared Clinton was one of the finest secretaries of state. What did the 4 years at the State Department did to her political reputation? Would she be more or less electable in 2016 than she was in 2008?

3. Until now Clinton repeatedly dismissed the speculation about running for President. Can you imagine some scenario that would push her to change her mind and decide to give it another try?

Answers:

Brandon Rottinghaus, Associate Professor, Department of Political Science, University of Houston

1. There is some real possibility that Secretary Clinton would run. She has the name recognition, the supportive connections, the experience and the fundraising potential. At this point, however, the scope and nature of the Democratic field for president is too wide open to speculate about.

2. Her reputation has improved primarily because she was seen as a divisive, partisan politician. Serving as Secretary of State has allowed her to demonstrate that she can build bridges and be diplomatic on the world stage. This has made her more electable by giving her the experience but also by demonstrating that she can be an effective international diplomat, something many presidential hopefuls don’t get.

3. Most politicians say they don’t want to run for president! This is a way to give them some cover should they decide it is not possible for them to do so. I doubt she has genuinely not thought about running in 2016 since she has been in the political eye for so long. I think a weak Democratic field and or a strong Republican contender emerging would push her to run more quickly.

Jasmine Farrier, Associate Professor of Political Science, University of Louisville

1. Television interviews are staged, just like any other media and political event. Their joint appearance fuel speculation that Hillary Clinton is Obama’s preferred successor to continue his legacy. Of course, that assumption is inherently awkward as his own vice president, Joe Biden, might be considering a run. But the point of the interview seemed to be to cement her status as a national icon, especially among democrats, whereas he is more divisive. Their seemingly genuine friendship and mutual respect puts to rest any lingering competition from 2008.

2. She is far more electable in 2016 for a variety of reasons. Both Clintons (Bill and Hillary) have enjoyed something of a renaissance since their time in the white house. He was elected president over 20 years ago, which is a lifetime in American politics. Us citizens are suspicious and quick to anger, but have short memories and forgive easily. Although Bill Clinton was impeached in 1998, his presidency is invoked fondly by both parties due to the time of peace and prosperity. Hillary Clinton, however, became a lightning rod for democrats during the George W. Bush years when she was a new senator from NY. Her vote in favor of authorizing the war against Iraq was a key point in her loss of the democratic primary to Barack Obama, who stated publicly that he opposed the war.

Again, think about Americans’ short memories. The war is essentially over and the political wounds and choices are behind the party. Clinton served as a relatively non-partisan secretary of state, following the tradition of her predecessors in that she did not campaign openly for the president and tried to be “above” politics. She is more popular than ever due to her reputation for hard work and dedication to the office, both as a senator and as secretary of state. Ironically, as a first lady, she was far more polarizing even though it is an honorary position.

3. Yes, definitely. She is in her mid-60s and needs to recover her health before she makes any big commitments. American politics, for better or worse, centers on presidents and presidential elections so this speculation will not go away. There are other democrats who seem to be considering a run (Gov. Andrew Cuomo from New York, Joe Biden, and others) but she is the front-runner and everyone in the party would probably wait to see what she does. Informally, the presidential primary season begins after the next congressional election, which will be in the fall 2014. But the “invisible primary” season begins now – with visibility through speeches and fundraising. As a popular political celebrity, Clinton does not have to lift a finger to be considered an important candidate. She will probably make a signal within the next year.

Matthew Eshbaugh-SohaAssistant Professor, Department of Political Science, University of North Texas

1. I do believe she is leading in the early polls for presidential preferences in 2016. Since the media tend to gravitate towards these figures or others who have name recognition (Ryan this go around; Palin last time), her name is going to come up. We love talking presidential elections around here, after all. It’s hard for her to know for sure, right now, so she would not want to say no until she is sure. It’s really not fair to ask her for a decision for something several years away, right after she is leaving State and right after she had a bit of a medical issue. Leaving it open means that she will get press; politicians like that.

2. I think she has more foreign policy experience, which is a big deal. Right now, she really has all of the qualifications. Perhaps she was hurt in 2008 for having supported the Iraq war and Dems were down on her foreign policy credentials. But she has bolstered that without a doubt. Republicans probably like her even less, given her ties to Benghazi. That could be one issue of attack if she wins the nomination. However, there does not appear to be anything of significance there, other than fodder for the Sean Hannitys of the world. In short, I think she is a stronger candidate now given her four years at state. Indeed, this is one reason why she is talked about: she would likely be the strongest candidate–political and policy experience–of anyone in the field that we can foresee. If age/health is not an issue, she would be the front-runner and presumptive nominee…even this early in the game…so long as she says yes. We won’t know for certain on this until January/February 2015.

3. Again, I think this is what potential candidates say after they have just stepped down from another position. Remember, Romney said, more or less, that 2008 was his last shot at the presidency; but the economy turned south and he saw an opening. It makes sense that she will say what she is saying now, but we all recognize that until the chance to run has completely passed, it is always a possibility. My sense is that she will not run for president–it is so grueling and time-consuming and she has been a part of many a campaign. But I’d give her a 40 % chance of running in 2016.

Mark RozellProfessor of Public Policy, George Mason University

1. A Clinton candidacy is 2016 is pure speculation at this point, Indeed, she may not even know whether she will want to run or not in three years. She is a very calculating person – not in the negative use of the term, but rather that she will not make a run if she concludes that the circumstances are unfavorable for her in 2016.

2. Her stint as Secretary of State gives her much added credibility as a potential future president. Americans understand the important role that the U.S. president plays in the world, and Clinton will be able to present herself as having met the most foreign leaders and traveled the most on foreign policy business of any other presidential candidate in 2016.

3. All potential candidates claim at this early stage that they do not have a hunger to run for president. They want it to appear that there is a groundswell of public support for them to run and that they are therefore duty-bound to do so. It’s a game they all play – make it look like they are really not interested, but then they have to heed the call of the people to help the country in a time of need. To me, that suggests that her words of disinterest should not be taken seriously.

Michael Wagner, Assistant Professor, School of Journalism and Mass Communication, University of Wisconsin – Madison

1. It is speculation. President Obama said he wanted to do the joint interview as a way to thank Secretary Clinton for her work. He would likely have to stay out of nomination politics, especially if VP Biden ran for the presidency in 2016. He has already turned his organization into an interest group of sorts, rather than passing the political machine onto an heir apparent.

2. I think she would be more electable. Democrats love her and Independents and Republicans like her more now than they have in the past.

3. Like most people, she will make the decision when she has to. Once we get to 2014, or perhaps the 2014 midterm elections, you need to have the structure of your organization in place to run. So, I suspect that early next year she will start to think about it more seriously, but that’s just a guess.

(Thanks to @SunWuKchung for providing this).

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