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 Democrat pretenders: Hillary Clinton (above) has long coveted the Oval Office (credit: Frank Plitt)

It might seem absurd to speculate who will be the frontrunners in the 2016 presidential race less than a year after Barack Obama won re-election, but since there are up to 15 people already positioning themselves, and since in America electioneering never really stops, it makes sense to do so. If one wishes to understand the posturings of American statesmen, which have real influence on day-to-day politics here, one needs to look beyond the November 2014 midterm congressional elections to the ultimate prize of the White House.

It is very rare for a full two-term presidency to be followed by the election of someone from the same party; indeed, since the Second World War it has only happened once, when George H.W. Bush succeeded Ronald Reagan in 1989. Of course history won't discourage the leading Democrats from running for their party's nomination, and former secretary of state Hillary Clinton is presently the leading contender: her campaign managers are already attempting to position her as the party's inevitable choice, and over $1 million has been put into the "Ready for Hillary" political action committee in the last few weeks by past backers of hers. To follow the United States' first black president with its first female one would secure the party's self-image as the progressive force in American politics, and her name recognition — a vital factor in a country with relatively low voter turnouts — is far higher than anyone else's on the Democratic side of the aisle.

Clinton is presently "resting" from the one million miles of flying that she clocked up as secretary of state, but she is also giving fantastically well-paid speeches, at $200,000 a time. Advised by her husband, whose love of politics is utterly undimmed, Hillary is undoubtedly eying up the Oval   Office. Her ruthless (but politically sensible) distancing of herself from her close aide Huma Abedin, whose husband Anthony Weiner continued to send text-photos of his penis to strangers a year after resigning from Congress over an identical scandal, is merely the latest affirmation of her ambition.

Clinton would undoubtedly bring out large numbers of female voters, though not in the same proportions that Obama achieved for blacks, and she would have the formidable Democrat get-out-the-vote machine working for her that so comprehensively put paid to Mitt Romney's hopes in 2012. For all the Republicans' attempts to reheat her utterly disgraceful defence of herself during the Benghazi hearings on Capitol Hill — "What difference, at this point, does it make?" — that shameful moment in American history will be five years old by the time of the 2016 elections. Similarly, her total inability to turn the Arab Spring to America's advantage in either Iran or Syria might well be largely forgotten by then.

Considering how ham-fisted the Republican attack machine has been since that likeable genius Karl Rove left its helm, it is probable that criticism of Hillary might sound like mean-spirited misogyny, and even work to her advantage. This could further blacken the Republicans as the nasty party, despite the Democrats being far meaner political mudslingers. Attempts to point out that Clinton financially benefited from the Whitewater scandal, never won an important case as a lawyer, never passed any significant piece of legislation as a senator for New York, never got her healthcare bill even voted on by the Senate, and has never made a speech — or even a remark — that was both true and memorable, might be thought of as part of that staple Democrat invention, "the Republicans' war on women", and backfire disastrously.

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Andrew P
September 15th, 2013
4:09 AM
I wouldn't count on this: "The Republicans' biggest problem will be that after nearly a decade in the doldrums, the American economy should be strong by late 2016, albeit despite President Obama rather than because of him." You are making an awful lot of assumptions here. If the US economy doesn't pick up in the next year, it is likely to have another epic crash. I'm not sure which political party will be helped by another crash, but it certainly isn't going to help Hillary - especially with all the Clintonites on Obama's economic team. If there is a crash, I expect a real radical to get the nominations of both US political parties.

September 9th, 2013
12:09 PM
Lest we forget, in the three years leading up to the 2008 Presidential Election we also were assured by the experts that Hillary Clinton was unstoppable. And yet she was trounced by a little-known, one-term Senator, of no known accomplishments. If, in politics, two weeks is a "lifetime," what do you call the three years remaining before the next Presidential election?

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