10 December 2012, 16:17

Is Hillary's third term unavoidable?

Is Hillary's third term unavoidable?

As reported by the Huffington Post, on Sunday, appearing on NBC's "Meet the Press", former House speaker and former contender for Republican presidential nomination Newt Gingrich said that his party would be completely outmatched in 2016 if the outgoing Secretary of State Hillary Clinton decided to run for presidency.

"The Republican party is incapable of competing at that level," said Mr. Gingrich. "First of all, she's very formidable as a person. She's a very competent person. She's married to the most popular Democrat in the country; they both think it would be good for her to be president. It makes it virtually impossible to stop her for the nomination."

The words coming from a person, who back in the 1990s gave the most deprecatory characteristic of the same person, may reflect at least two things. One, the regrettable state the GOP has found itself after the floppy performance of 2012 which was doomed from the very moment the Republican choice of candidate became evident. The disarray the party is presently in makes it all too probable that Republicans will not be able to come up with a competitive candidate – whoever runs on the Democratic side.

What deserves a little more attention is whether Ms. Hillary, already two times occupant of the White House, nicknamed "Billary" at the time when nominally the presidential role was played by a nice guy, good saxophonist, womanizer and her husband Bill Clinton, will run in 2016.

At the moment, Hillary Clinton regularly brushes off the idea of a 2016 presidential bid, giving ground for all kinds of speculations. Her countless choices, as the New York Times writes in a recent lengthy article, range from secluding herself to rest and later buying a house in the Hamptons or upstate New York and dedicating more time to everyday activities like exercise, to coming back to the foreground of politics and social life. The question is, in what capacity?

The options include joining her husband's foundation, writing a new book — "not a painful examination of her failed 2008 presidential bid, as she once proposed, but a more upbeat look at her time as secretary of state," or becoming president of Yale University, or heading George Soros’s foundation.

But all these and a limitless number of unnamed options hinge on one: 2016.

The American public, according to a recent ABC/Washington Post poll, is ready to accept Ms. Hillary at least as a candidate. With her approval ratings reaching the peak figures of 68 percent, the percentage of US citizens who would like her to run in 2016 is 57 (what is most surprising, it is as high as 23 percent among Republican voters).

Surely, there are several factors demanding that the figures should not be taken literally. First of all, the four years before the election is an eon in political terms, and the early start may work against Hillary Clinton, as it usually does with populist candidates, and as it did to her back in 2008 when she had declared her intention to run too early. What it resulted in is well-known – being a recognized front-runner, Hillary lost the scramble for Democratic nomination.

Second, when people say that they would like her to run, does it really mean that they are going to vote for her, or are they just expecting a bright show? It is highly doubtful that when time comes, the 23 percent of GOP supporters will really shift sides to support the ardent liberal Ms. Hillary is.

What is also notable is the possible impact her resignation from the State Secretarial position would haveon her chances. Her present popularity can be ascribed to the hawkish stance in foreign policy – so different from the wobbly domestic policies of her patron, President Barack Obama.

But she is going to resign right after Obama's second inauguration.

So, another question emerges – whether this is a total withdrawal from politics, or a tactical retreat. Foreseeing the continuation of the inevitable decline of Obama's popularity, it would be wise for any politician with presidential ambitions to dissociate him/herself from the "lame duck" Obama is sure to turn into soon after his second term begins.

But the time may be working against Ms. Hillary. In November 2016 she will have entered her 70th year, and it remains doubtful whether her image will be appealing to younger generations.

So, Newt Gingrich's remarks on the Republicans' incapability to compete come back to the Grand Old Party itself. The ball is on the Republican half of the court, and it is up to them to overcome the present crisis. Ms. Hillary is not as unbeatable as she looks at the moment.

Boris Volkhonsky, senior research fellow, Russian Institute for Strategic Studies

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