Monday, September 19, 2011

Hillary Clinton political story may not be over

THE ISSUE: Hillary in 2016; OUR OPINION: Even South Carolinians like the idea

While the Republicans seemingly nightly beat themselves up over which candidate will represent them in the presidential election of 2012, the Democrats have no such dilemma. Not surprisingly, no one has stepped forward to challenge President Barack Obama, and no one likely will. It would be a shock.

While Democrats certainly cannot assume victory in 2012 and probably should not be looking ahead, even the GOP with its crowded field already talks about candidates for 2016. Democrats are doing so too.

First, there is the matter of Obama. A victory in 2012 would leave him in powerful position and have people speculating on Vice President Joe Biden and a new run by the No. 2 officer at the top office. That's just not likely. Biden, soon to be 69, has made his unsuccessful runs and likely is ready to pull away from active politics.

One might think that is true of some other politicians, too. No so, if you take a look at voter sentiment. While South Carolina is not a Democratic state, and is the state that effectively laid waste to then-Sen. Hillary Clinton's campaign in 2008 by handing Obama a big primary victory, there is surprising sentiment for the former first lady as a candidate in 2012.

It's interesting to see now that 57 percent of Democrats in the state say Hillary Clinton would be their first choice for the party nominee in 2016, according to Public Policy Polling.

She's followed by Biden at 23 percent, Andrew Cuomo at 5 percent, Deval Patrick at 2 percent, Russ Feingold and Mark Warner at 1%, and Kirsten Gillibrand and Brian Schweitzer at 0.

The most interesting thing about Hillary's South Carolina numbers is that she's even stronger with blacks at 59 percent than she is with whites at 54 percent. Remember that her husband aggravated black voters in the state in 2008 and probably hurt her cause but there doesn't seem to be any long-term damage.

If you take Clinton and Biden out of the equation, 61 percent of voters have no preference. The best of the rest is Cuomo with 15 percent followed by Warner at 8 percent, Feingold at 7 percent, Patrick at 4 percent, Gillibrand at 3 percent and Schweitzer at 2 percent.

Tom Jensen, public policy polling director, said, "We've done similar polls in Iowa (where Clinton was at 44 percent to 13 percent for Biden and no one else in double digits) and New Hampshire (where Clinton was at 52 percent to 16 percent for Biden and no one else in double digits). It's clear at this point that if Clinton decided to run, she would start out as the overwhelming favorite for the Democratic nomination.

Of course that was the case in 2008, which is why these early polls are fun but not terribly predictive. There is also the matter of Hillary's own desire for the post, particularly as the clock is ticking on her political career. Born on Oct. 26, 1947, Hillary would be 69 years old when assuming the office of the presidency. While the first female president would not be the oldest American chief executive, her age would begin to become a political issue as the term/terms went on.

For now, however, hers is an interesting political story that is playing out in the background. Possibly not for much longer.

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