Bill Clinton offers strongest hint yet of Hillary bid for presidency in 2016
Distraction from Obama vs Romney, as Bill Clinton offers hint that his wife, the Secretary of State, may run again for presidency
The 2012 US election may be far from decided, but the current hot speculation centres on the 2016 race, and whether a certain Democrat household name might once again feature in it.
The prospect of a Hillary Rodham Clinton White House bid gained momentum on Sunday when Bill Clinton offered the broadest hint yet that she might run for office.
Hillary Clinton is due to stand down soon as secretary of state, probably in January, and take at least six months out to write a memoir about her time in office. After that, she will make up her mind whether she will run, according to the Clinton camp.
At 64, she is still young enough for a 2016 bid and is way ahead of any of her rivals in terms of standing and popularity inside the party. In an interview with Face the Nation on CBS television, Bill Clinton spoke of her achievements and said she would be well placed.
"I've never met anybody I thought was any better than her at this. But again, we got a lot of able people in our party who want to be president," he said.
Asked directly if she would stand, he said: "I have no earthly idea what she'll decide to do." That hedged answer was enough to ignite the buzz about a 2016 tilt.
Other senior Democrats, including at least three governors, are positioning themselves for a run and vice-president Joe Biden might fancy his chances too.
After coming off second best to Barack Obama in the early stages of the 2008 Democratic nomination battle, Hillary Clinton won over many in the Democratic party with her stubborn refusal to quit. In a dignified and touching exit speech, she thanked the 18 million for the votes she had received, portraying them as a step forward in women's fight for equality and a first female presidency.
In words that might yet find an echo in 2016, she said: "Although we weren't able to shatter that highest, hardest glass ceiling this time, thanks to you, it's got about 18 million cracks in it. And the light is shining through like never before, filling us all with the hope and the sure knowledge that … The path will be a little easier next time."
Her popularity has grown over the past four years within the party, not least because of her loyalty to Obama. There have been no leaks or sniping from her office, and she is viewed as an effective and popular secretary of state. In writing her memoir, she intends to retain that loyalty, sticking rigidly to her time as secretary of state rather than her version of the bruising battle with Obama in 2007 and 2008, according to the Clinton camp.
In his interview, Clinton talked of how hard his wife had been working over the past two decades. "You know she's worked hard for 20 years. We had eight years in the White House. Then she ran for the Senate. She served in New York for eight years. Then she immediately became the secretary of state, and she's tired," he said. "She's really worked hard. I think she's done a fabulous job … But she wants to take some time off, kind of regroup, write a book. I hope we'll be working together."
He said he would support her whatever she decided. "She's an extraordinarily able person. I've never met anybody I thought was a better public servant."
If Obama wins a second term and benefits from economic recovery, Clinton could find herself well-placed for the Democratic nomination. If Mitt Romney becomes president and the economy improves, it might be harder facing a Republican incumbent.
If Romney loses, the Republicans have a long list of potential candidates, including Florida senator Marco Rubio, Romney's running-mate Paul Ryan and former Florida governor Jeb Bush.
As for the Democrats, according to a report in The New York Times, the New York governor, Andrew Cuomo, wants to run but told an adviser: "First, I've got to figure out what Hillary is doing." It quoted a Cuomo spokesman denying he had said this.