Thursday, January 30, 2014

Hillary Clinton's Dominance

Barack Obama may still have three years to run, and came out fighting in a State of the Union address which signified his desire not to spend the remainder of his presidency as a do-nothing lame duck, but it is in the nature of the game that second term presidencies see a lot of attention focusing on what comes next.  And here, the Democrats have always only had one name in the field - former First Lady and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

The Washington Post records the biggest primary poll lead ever for the undeclared Clinton.  She leads her next putative runner, Vice-President Joe Biden, by an astonishing 61 points.  No-one has scored that highly before.  And Clinton's not just the biggest beast by far in the Democratic firmament, her name recognition dominates what is at the moment a puny set of Republican possibilities.  Bear in mind that the once mighty New Jersey Governor Chris Christie had a disastrous January, with the George Washington Bridge scandal still likely to come back and bite him, especially if his sacked aide decides silence is not the best policy.

Of the other Republicans with decent poll ratings, Paul Ryan was hardly a brilliant performer as Mitt Romney's vice-presidential running mate, while Jeb Bush - the former president's younger brother - could certainly have traction but may find the Bush name more of a hindrance than a help in going for the Republican nomination.

Of course, we are only at the beginning of 2014, and the next presidential is due in November 2016.  Hillary knows better than any just how a seemingly invulnerable lead can be dismantled - as her own pre-2008 primary lead was by one Barack Obama.  She is also far from declaring; the third placed Democrat name in the primary polls, Elizabeth Warren (on 8%), is one of several women senators who signed a letter urging her to run, and yet even with all of the pressure and seeming inevitability to a Clinton candidacy we know that she is a woman who pulls surprises out of the bag.  The biggest one yet would be an announcement that she WON'T be running.

It's possible that Clinton herself doesn't yet know. Her time away from the political front line could have rejuvenated her or it could have persuaded her that she doesn't want to leap back into the piranha pool.  And yet.......  Clinton is such a well known figure, and has already battled such strenuous attacks since the time she was First Lady, that there are unlikely to be any more surprises waiting to ambush her candidacy - she is the best known quantity in American politics.  She also once talked of breaking the glass ceiling of a woman president - what are the chances of her not wanting to be the person who finally does that?

Until she declares one way or the other - quite possibly well over a year down the line - Hillary Clinton can at least bask in the knowledge that hers is the biggest non-presidential show in town, and likely to remain so for a good while yet.  She's never had it so good.

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