The Washington Post:
But what of 2016? Has Clinton given up on busting though that glass ceiling, or will her ambition and influence move her to run for president once again? In recent days, prominent Democrats such as former House speaker Nancy Pelosi, former Pennsylvania governor Ed Rendell and her husband, former president Bill Clinton, have speculated aloud that she just might.
Guessing about Hillary Clinton’s presidential ambitions has been a game since at least 2003 — when she began laying the groundwork for a run — and has never stopped. Back then, her friends admit, she had to be coy. Now, they say, Clinton truly does not think she will run again.
(...) Whether she runs or not, Clinton is almost certain to spend 2013, at least, unshackled from the demands of government service and entering an uncharted phase in her life, as she follows her husband into the private sector and, most likely, the nonprofit world.
(...) Clinton is expected to write a book — either a sequel to “Living History,” her best-selling memoir from 2003, or possibly something more policy-centered. She can command a multimillion-dollar advance, perhaps doubling the reported $8.1 million advance she got in 2003, when her book sold more than 1 million copies in the first six weeks. (And yes, money could be a consideration for the once-struggling Clintons, despite their more recent financial stability.)
Of more than half a dozen Clinton friends and advisers, past and present, who talked candidly about her prospects, most did so on the condition that they would not be quoted. They were split: Some thought she should not run again, while others expressed strong interest in her doing so. But all agreed that she has fully rehabilitated herself since 2008.
Indeed, Clinton has appeared even more at ease as secretary of state than she did as a senator, helped along by a wonkish press corps more focused on the details of multilateral negotiations than on what she is wearing.
(...) It is precisely Clinton’s current ease — evident, for instance, in her playful participation in the “Texts From Hillary” Internet spoof — that leads some of her more protective confidants to believe that she will not, and should not, seek the presidency again.
In the past four years, Clinton recovered from a devastating defeat and made an improbable leap to become a trusted adviser to her formal rival. If she were to run and lose again, a similar recovery would be much more difficult, and the twin defeats could eclipse her life’s work.
The last campaign took its toll. She weathered pronounced sexism. Her team was constantly at war with itself. Above all, Clinton had to take hard stands and try to inspire voters, all while subject to around-the-clock scrutiny. One cautious friend suggested that if Clinton were to run again, her popularity would drop overnight because she would once again be center stage, a position that makes all politicians more polarizing.
Then there is the other camp: Those who desperately want her to run, fulfilling the hopes of 2008 and the aspirations of those who saw her as the first female president. She has proved herself as a global leader, they argue, and is the most qualified candidate to follow Obama. The chance to make history could outweigh her reluctance after an adequate break.
(...) Of course, numerous other candidates are already lining up for 2016, their ambitions premised in part on the belief that the Clinton moment has passed. But in the era of eternal campaigning, Clinton has something her possible rivals do not: time.
Potential 2016 Democratic hopefuls such as Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo will need to start laying the groundwork for a national campaign right away. So will the women who could run, such as Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano or Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (N.Y.). The only other candidate who could take his time may be Biden, who would run from a White House perch — but would not be formidable enough to clear the field.
Clinton, because of her political network and experience, could decide as late as 2015, although that would surely frustrate donors and the other contenders.
“It’s partly amusing, partly annoying, that everyone is sitting here trying to map out the best political move for her,” said Mo Elleithee, who worked for Clinton in 2008. “If she wants to get back into the game, she has time to make that decision. . . . Everyone else is going to start gearing up the day after this election is over.”
The outcome on Nov. 6 could play a role in how events around Clinton unfold. If Obama wins reelection, she would be unlikely to start staking out independent views on policy issues. But if Mitt Romney wins, she could be motivated — by competitiveness, even anger — and would almost certainly face pressure to mount an opposition bid.
And if she did decide to run? “It would look very different,” one friend said.
One key change would be her advisers.
(...) Unlike four years ago, Clinton is not getting constant political briefings from strategists such as Mark Penn (although Penn, who wasn’t banished from her circle, is still in occasional touch).
“Her inner circle has changed,” one friend said.
Another person still in her orbit also said the cast would be different in 2016 than it was in 2008. “It’s not like she doesn’t know she lost. Do people really think she would run the exact same campaign again, have the exact same people who screwed it up?”