Obama: Hillary Clinton would make a great president. An endorsement?

President Barack Obama said that Hillary Clinton would make a great President. How much would you say is it an endorsement of her seemingly inevitable presidential run? Read few comments.

James Boys, Associate Professor of International Political Studies,Richmond University (London), Visiting Senior Research Fellow, King’s College London

I think that Obama is trying to walk a very difficult path at the moment. His Vice President, Joe Biden, should be the presumptive nominee. However, Hillary is a unique case and as such he is being diplomatic. There are some in the Democratic Party who are determined to make it as difficult as possible for Hillary, so her nomination should not be taken for granted, and neither should her position as the president in waiting. It’s a long way to November 2016…

John Owens, Emeritus  Professor of United States Government and Politics, Centre for the Study of Democracy, University of Westminster 

Obama and the Clintons are party loyalists. They want to support their party. As the incumbent Democratic president, Obama will want another Democrat to succeed him in 2016. Right now, Hillary Clinton seems the most likely Democratic candidate. Clinton has a great deal of governmental experience – which is rare for presidential candidates – 8 years in the White House with husband Bill as president, US senator from NY, and then latterly Secretary of State. She almost won the Democrats’ presidential nomination in 2004 and, according to many commentators, partly because of her experience, would probably have made a better president than Obama and, ideally, should have become president in 2008 with Obama as Vice President, ready to succeed her in 2016. As we know, that did not work out. Now, she is 68 and will be 70 in 2016 – not too old to be president (Reagan was almost 70 when he was inaugurated in 2001.) but will likely not have the energy she had 8 years ago.

So, yes, Obama means it when he says she will be a “great” president, whatever that means, but the unravelling of his presidency and his unpopularity will mean that he does not pass on to her a bountiful legacy. But, then, the Republicans are all over the place. So, the Democrat will probably win in 2016, whatever.

Philip Davies, Professor, Eccles Centre for American Studies, The British Library, President, European Association for American Studies

Hillary’s run does seem pretty inevitable, as you say, although I am not sure she is inevitably the nominee or the winner.  Certainly other Democrats are, in general, staying below the parapet.  And she is acquiring indications of support, she has been out on the campaign trail, showing very visible support for losing candidates in a bad Democratic year – that should solidify a lot of loyalty to her.  I think she has been particularly supportive of women candidates – there is a modest ‘gender gap’ of greater female favouritism to the Democrats, and a modesly higher turnout in the electorate of women voters, so capturing and delivering that vote would be very considerable assets for Hillary.  I presume she is racking up the necessary funds, or funding promises, too – certainly Bill & Hill are the best money making machine that the Democrats have.  So any other Democrat would be brave to take her on at the moment.  She also benefits from a dearth of really star potential Democrat candidates – Andrew Cuomo?  Surely not Joe Biden, or a return to the national fray by Jerry Brown?  And after Obama would the electorate go for another relatively inexperienced person?

All of that reasoning falls, I think, if she is perceived at some point to be substantially vulnerable.  This might be on a policy matter – if the Republicans, using their new majority in the Senate, can for example find something genuinely damaging on which to hold very public investigative hearing.  I doubt that they can successfully use such a strategy, but who knows?  The other vulnerability would be in terms of health.  She is no older than Reagan, but that president, loved as he was (is?) by Americans, was showing signs of age by the time he left office.  Hillary looked in great shape during the recent campaign, but I suspect that any hint that her health was not A1 might create a stumbling block to her progress.

Obama owes Hillary favours.  She was a decent Secretary of State for him (Benghazi notwithstanding), but also, after a very tough primary season, she brought her supporters to Obamas graciously and positively with her actions at the 2008 Democratic National Convention.  THEN, in 2012 Bill spent a considerable effort late in the presidential campaign on the trail with Obama, bolstering up the presidential re-election campaign.  I was at one of these rallies, in New Hampshire, and have to say that the crowd seemed drawn as much by Bill as by Obama, and the feeling already was that Bill was helping to set things up for a Hillary run in 2016 (if Obama had failed to get re-elected, and the US had faced potentially 8 years of Romney, the opportunity for an unhindered Hillary run would almost certainly have passed).  So yes, an endorsement, and a payment back on tangible political debts.

Marty Linsky, Adjunct Lecturer, Harvard University, Co-founder, Cambridge Leadership Associates

Nothing is inevitable. Until she says so, I am not certain that she will run. And Obama’s carefully-worded praise for her is a strategic move on his part to try to ensure that the media and the Republicans will be unable to wrap him around her neck and that she will be unable to run as the anti-Obama. You can safely interpret anything Obama does in the next two years through the prism of his intentions about his legacy. How will he be remembered?

Charles Lipson, Professor of Political Science, University of Chicago

Obama’s comments are a mixed endorsement. He said both that she would be a great president and that people are looking for someone new. The first is positive for Hillary. The second is negative.



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