Don't Bet Against Hillary Clinton in 2016

National Journal

Cleaning out my notebook from the weekend, I came across this quote from a long-time associate of Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton discussing the 2016 presidential race: "There is no false equivalency about her pros and cons."

Her point is that while journalists falsely equate GOP and Democratic wrongdoing, there is a true equivalency when Clinton weighs the merits of seeking the presidency. Before we get to the lists, a caveat: Clinton honestly and understandably has not decided whether to run, sources close to her agree. She is tired. She is torn. And she is smart enough to know that the decision can (and should) wait.

And now, because we can't help ourselves, here is Clinton's list of pros and cons about running in 2016:


1. Big vacuum: Sure, Joe Biden is an able and successful vice president but his approval rating is nowhere near as high as Clinton's, and he is not her equal inside the party. Clinton could clear the field. Biden could not.

2. Opportunity to change: Clinton is a policy wonk who has always hungered to make a difference. Agree with her policies or not, it's hard to dispute that she is motivated by the desire to make lives better, and there is no better perch to do that than the presidency.

3. History: Her decades-long advocacy for women's rights would be culminated with glass ceiling-shattering presidency.

4. Clinton legacy: Her election would be viewed an extension of the Clinton brand as much as Obama's, cementing a progressive agenda that includes her signature issue: universal access to health care.

5. Inertia: In politics, momentum often drives decisions. If Clinton doesn't proactively end speculation with a Sherman-esque statement in early 2015, the train might get moving too fast for her to stop.


1. Health. Clinton, 65, has always been healthy but her grueling job has taken a toll. Steve Kroft of "60 Minutes" asked Clinton about her health in the interview that aired Sunday night. "Oh, it's great. It's great," she said. "Now, you know, I still have some lingering effects from falling on my head and having the blood clot. But, you know, the doctors tell me that that will all recede. And so thankfully I'm, you know, looking forward to being at full speed."

2. Other interests. Clinton may enjoy life outside politics as she peruses philanthropic and advocacy interests. A wild card: The U.S. Supreme Court. Should a vacancy emerge and the job be offered (a long shot at her age), Clinton's associates wouldn't be surprised to see her take it. The court has always seemed a better fit for her disposition than raw politics.

3. Above politics. Clinton doesn't suffer fools or petty politics well. Her bitter 2008 campaign against Obama might have been ugly enough to last a lifetime.

4. Her legacy. First lady. U.S. senator. Secretary of State. That is quite a resume, and it includes the fact that, even in defeat, she broke ground in 2008. Failure in 2016 might tarnish her legacy.

5. Bill Clinton. He is a brilliant politician and successful two-term president who wants his wife to win. But he didn't serve her well as a political spouse in 2008. Why would 2016 be any different?