The political future of Hillary Clinton: with or without Obama?

Despite the fact that we’re still not even through the first half of President Obama’s first term, it never seems too early for politicos to speculate on his ultimate reelection bid and the future (or lack thereof) of his administration.

There has already been some stirring speculation that Obama’s former rival and current Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, would be the most likely Democratic challenger that could credibly take on the sitting President and have a good shot at being successful, should she decide to resign from her current position.

Now there is speculation that Obama might tap her to be his running mate in 2012, a move some predicted he might have made back in 2008, following their contentious campaign.

The selection of Hillary Clinton as his vice president for the 2012 election would have a lot of implications for both Obama’s chances at winning a second term and for Clinton’s own likely aspirations to one day be president herself.

First of all, she would have to actually want the job. A lot of that desire would derive from whether or not the administration is popular or (more) unpopular when the appropriate time to formally announce such a significant administrative decision comes. For the most part, the prospect of Obama picking Clinton is more beneficial to him than it is to her, especially if his job approval numbers continue to decline as they have been doing.

However, if an Obama/Clinton ticket is successful in keeping the White House for the Democrats in 2012, it would boost (if not guarantee) Clinton’s chances at becoming the Democratic nominee for the top spot in 2016. As Vice President, she would most certainly be the heir apparent to succeed Obama (ala Al Gore in 2000 or George H.W. Bush in 1988).

Then again, some may argue that nearly beating him in the 2008 Primary race already qualifies her has the de facto heir apparent for 2016, if not earlier. Her diverse resume now includes her positions as the U.S. Secretary of State, her 8-year tenure as the junior senator from New York, as well as First Lady of both the United States and Arkansas.

Such qualifications again beg the question: Why does she need Obama?

Then there is also the matter of what to do with the current Veep, gaffe-prone Joe Biden, in the event that Obama does decide to make Clinton his new Number Two.

Supposedly, Biden has always been a favorite of Democrats in the area of foreign policy, based off his many years on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Had he managed to win the presidency back in 2004, Senator John Kerry (D-MA) would have made him his Secretary of State. Obama too apparently offered Biden a choice between that job and the vice presidency before he officially picked him as his running mate in 2008. Thus, the suggestion has been made that the two (Clinton and Biden) simply switch jobs at some point before the 2012 campaign (which unofficially begins the day after this November’s midterm elections).

Putting Biden at the State Department and Clinton at the forefront of the campaign as Obama’s chief attack dog would probably benefit the Democrats’ efforts, since the press would pay little to no attention to Biden, who tends to often speak off the cuff and embarrass his boss. The media’s principal focus would undoubtedly be on the new Vice President, who happens to be someone with whom they have been fascinated for years.

While these scenarios may be fun for political junkies to toss around, they usually turn into mere speculation or wishful thinking on the part of the opposing party. A second Obama-Clinton rivalry would initially benefit Republicans, as a challenge to any incumbent president has almost always resulted in the other party taking power in the end. Likewise, an Obama/Clinton ticket would pose many of the risks that it would have back in 2008 – the reemergence of past scandals, fabrications about running from sniper fire, and, of course, there’s always Bill.

It wasn’t so long ago that Democrats gleefully speculated about the prospect of George W. Bush dropping Dick Cheney from his ticket in 2004 – with the secret hopes that such a move would serve as some sort of admission that that degree of conservatism simply couldn’t win on the national level. Obviously, that scenario didn’t quite play out.

An incumbent president losing his party’s nomination for an additional term is not something that has occurred very often. Despite challenges to incumbents in recent decades, the last time such a scenario took place was back in 1884, when Republican President Chester A. Arthur (who rose to the presidency upon the assassination of his predecessor) failed to win his party’s nomination. As to be expected, such division also paved the way for the Republicans’ loss of the White House that year as well.

If Obama manages to win a second term, the prospects for Clinton to succeed him as the next Democratic president would likely be hurt a little, since historically (with the recent exception of George H.W. Bush’s 1988 victory), one party often does not hold control of the White House for the more than two consecutive terms.

However, should Obama lose in 2012, Clinton would probably have an even better chance at defeating his Republican successor (the 2016 incumbent), especially since he or she will likely still be serving in an economic climate that is far and away from being “fixed.”

Clinton’s foreign policy credibility has already been enhanced from her service at the State Department and her domestic credibility is solid on issues she championed as a senator and First Lady.

Bottom line: she doesn’t need Obama. The sooner she jumps off his sinking ship of a presidency, the more viable she will become as a candidate for the office she wanted to win two years ago.

Anybody that actually believes her when she says she has no plans to run for president again might as well believe that she honestly thought a “vast, right wing conspiracy” was secretly working to fabricate stories about her husband’s extramarital affairs in order to bring him down politically in the 1990’s.

She is a savvy politician and no matter where Obama puts her in the months and years to come, she will more than likely calculate it into her path to the White House, come hell or high water for her own Democratic Party. We’ll just have to wait and see.



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