MIAMI, March 16, 2014 — A rested, ready and relaxed Hillary Clinton spoke at the University of Miami in late February, answering questions, joking and working the crowd.
The not-yet candidate talked about equality and inclusive leadership, Venezuela and Syria. Her easy demeanor coupled with extensive expertise won over the audience, which even forgave her dodge of the question of whether she was planning to run for President in 2016.
Sarah, a University of Miami sophomore majoring in political science, said Clinton, “Really knows her stuff. I was surprised that she was funny. I kind of thought she would be, you know, stiff.”
Although Clinton has not yet announced her candidacy – and neither has anyone else – she is unquestionably campaigning. In 2013, she was quietly positioning herself, but so far in 2014, she is making a bit more noise. She has started a Twitter page, her Super PAC is revving up, and now, she is talking.
In addition to her University of Miami appearance, Clinton will make three appearances in April in California. On April 9, she will speak at The Marketing Nation Summit, followed by appearances at the Unique Lives & Experiences speaker series and Western Health Care Leadership Academy.
Clinton is making other media appearances. She is among the women featured in an article in the April edition of Vanity Fair on powerful women, with the text noting, “Hillary Rodham (then as the wife of a president, then as senator, then as secretary of state), has become a force more fascinating than her husband.” Clinton is also finishing a book, due out later this summer.
In a subtle but radical shift, Clinton is also starting to talk about policy. During a February trip to Orlando, Clinton cautiously approached the issue of health care reform. CNN reported that she told the Health Care Information and Management Systems Society, “I think we are on the right track in many respects.” However, she added, “But I would be the first to say if things aren’t working then we need people of good faith to come together and make evidence-based changes.”
CNN said Clinton highlighted the employer mandate as an area for change, saying the problem is “moving people from full-time work to part-time work to try to avoid contributing to their health care.” However, she lauded the provision allowing people under 26 to remain on their parents’ healthcare policies, a part of the law that is extremely popular.
Despite her non-candidacy, polls continue to show Clinton as the run-away leader for 2016. The latest Quinnipiac poll is from Iowa, and shows her leading Senator Rand Paul by 10 points; Senator Ted Cruz by 16 points; Jeb Bush by 14 points; Governor Christie by 13 points. Against Democrats, Real Clear Politics shows her about 58 percent ahead.
The poll also shows voters are disassociating Clinton from President Barack Obama. While Obama wins only a 39 percent approval rating among Iowa voters, more than 55 percent say Clinton would make a good president. She is the only candidate on the poll to receive a positive score.
Some say Clinton won’t run because of the skewering she almost certainly will face. While daunting, that is unlikely to deter Secretary Clinton. She has already faced media scrutiny for everything from Benghazi to her marriage to her fashion choices, much of it unkind and some of it blistering. There are few crevices of her life opponents have not inspected and excoriated.
Other opponents scoff at Clinton, saying the reality of the world and male-dominated culture in places like the Middle East mean a female U.S. president will only further erode America’s strength abroad. This shows an uninformed understanding of the world. Current German Chancellor Angela Merkel displays no weakness, and the global community never doubted the strength of former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.
Anecdotal evidence suggests the international community already respects, and somewhat fears, Clinton. One former U.S. diplomat says she has heard several Russian businessmen comment that they are glad Obama is in office and not Clinton. “They are much more afraid of Hillary Clinton than they are of Barack Obama,” she notes.
Hillary Clinton seems to be enjoying her current position, untethered to a public office and not under scrutiny by any oversight body. She is blooming in the new-found freedom to express her views. An identity outside of husband Bill gives her space in a room he usually fills.
Hillary Clinton is having fun.
But will it be enough? Is it enough to comment on policy and not to make it? Or does she feel the tug of destiny?
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Is Hillary Clinton happy with the speaking circuit, or does she want more?
There is an aura around Clinton now, a cultivated presidential air. She has stepped out of the shadows and seems to have found her footing, exuding ease and confidence.
Despite the polls, despite the speeches, despite the newfound comfort in her own skin, the question remains: Will Hillary Clinton run for president in 2016?
As she says in her Twitter profile, TBD.