Should Obama win a second term, there is little doubt in my mind that there is nothing which would jazz Democrats more than following up the first African-American President with our first woman President. Winning that election would constitute a muscular, two-fisted middle finger salute to all the Tea Party crazies. While Hillary may have been physically in Timor and Beijing, her spirit pervaded the Convention Center in Charlotte. Whenever her photo flashed on the screen behind the stage, usually as part of a group shot, the delegates cheered wildly. Even diehard Obama fans like this girl now.
Whether she actually wants to run was entirely irrelevant to the chattering classes. Hillary Rodham Clinton will be 69 in 2016, the same age as Ronald Reagan when he launched his successful campaign in 1980. And, while Hillary has been universally praised for her steadfast performance as Secretary of State, including kudos from many Republican observers, she knows only too well that the right wing hate machine will rapidly re-target its screeds if she enters the race: Socialism Marches On, Chapter 2! Fortunately, she is in the catbird seat and can wait to make her decision.
There is no assurance the Democratic nomination in 2016 will be worth a pitcher of warm spit, to paraphrase John Nance Garner. Obama will have to restore the economy to something that approximates a functioning proposition, and it would also be helpful if the Middle East could calm down to a dull roar. If not, the failure to achieve positive results could certainly be hung around her neck as an ‘accessory before the fact.’ Alternatively, if the economy returns to health and something like peace breaks out across the globe — well, why not take the credit?
Hillary will have plenty of time to write a well-received book about our global challenges — part memoir, part prescription. She and Bill can then tramp the hustings in 2014 on behalf of Democratic candidates throughout the country, collecting IOUs along the way. Chelsea can help with the contribution of a grandchild or two. With a little luck Hillary might get a call to assist in mediating an international crisis, which will provide her with a suit of armor against the usual charge that women aren’t tough enough to send troops into battle or go nose-to-nose with dictators. Toughness won’t be her weakness.
If they are to return to the White House, however, the Clintons will have to organize a far better campaign than they did last time out. Reliance on a cadre of beltway cognoscenti won’t get the job done. If Barack Obama has proven one thing, it is that attention to detail and throwing as broad a net as possible are the keys to electoral victory in the 21st century. In Hillary’s favor is the fact that Democrats just may be better at this than are the Republicans, not to mention a significant crossover vote from conservative women. And, wouldn’t you just love to see her debate Paul Ryan — the stammering Prince of Wisconsin?
If the stars don’t appear to line up, Hillary can enjoy her retirement instead, having departed the political arena as a warrior — admired for her brains, tenacity and Protestant work ethic. That has to be a temptation, when a second defeat in a presidential campaign would stand as the textbook judgment on her political career. Leaving as Secretary of State is not quite John Elway exiting football with two Super Bowl wins, but it’s better than Brett Favre having the stuffing kicked out of him while still grasping for one more ring. As for me, I won’t pound on Clinton’s door urging her to jump in the water. I’m willing to defer to her judgment; but, God, her run would be so much fun to watch!
Miller Hudson has been watching presidential campaigns for a while now. He also writes columns for The Colorado Statesman.