Too early for 2016? Not for Hillary Clinton’s fans

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, April 3, 2013

WASHINGTON (AP) — Hillary Rodham Clinton, perhaps as popular as ever in her 22 years in national politics, is taking steps as a private but famous citizen that fuel fans’ hopes she will run for president in 2016.
Clinton, who resigned in February after a much-praised stint as secretary of state, was scheduled to speak late Tuesday at an awards ceremony at Washington’s Kennedy Center.
Her first public speech since leaving the State Department seemed unlikely to produce a major policy or political address. But political buzz about 2016 is inevitable, especially since Vice President Joe Biden — another potential Democratic candidate — was scheduled to speak later at the same event.
Clinton, 65, has said she has no plans for a second presidential bid, but she hasn’t ruled it out. Democrats argue among themselves whether she has the desire and energy to go through the grueling campaign process she knows so well.
But many see her as a prohibitive favorite whose big head start might deny funds and volunteers to other contenders.
A Washington Post-ABC News poll in January found that 67 percent of Americans held a favorable view of Clinton. That’s her highest rating since the poll began measuring her popularity in the 1990s. It includes her eight years in the Senate.
“It’s hard to overstate the breadth and depth of enthusiasm for a Hillary run,” said Doug Hattaway, a former Clinton campaign aide and now a Washington-based consultant. She built a national base of supporters in 2008, when she lost a hard-fought nomination fight to Barack Obama, and she’s widely respected after heading the State Department, Hattaway said.
“A lot of donors, volunteers and potential campaign workers will wait to hear what she decides before committing to other candidates,” he said, although “anyone with their eye on 2016 is already working on it.”
A group called Ready for Hillary launched its fundraising campaign Tuesday and planned to rally outside the Kennedy Center during Clinton’s appearance.
Mo Elleithee, a top spokesman for Clinton’s 2008 campaign, said it’s much too early to press her for an answer.
“My advice to everyone is to chill out,” Elleithee said. “There’s no need for all this breathless anticipation,” he said, adding that political activists should focus on next year’s mid-term elections.