If Obama looks as if he'll lose in 2012, what about Hillary Clinton?
Approval ratings for Obama are at a historic low. Unemployment is not budging. Clinton would have to step down as secretary of State. Would it be unseemly to campaign against a president, in whose cabinet she once served? Just ask Jon Huntsman Jr.
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If the unemployment figures are nearly as bad this time next year as they are now, Mr. Obama’s reelection to a second term may be problematic.
If his defeat seems inevitable, will Democrats contemplate an alternative candidate? If so, who?
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There is already some whispering. The name “Hillary Clinton” crosses lips. Despite a flurry of denials and her protestations that she will retire at the end of 2012, the issue has been raised by reporters at White House press briefings and on TV networks such as Fox.
In the curious way we elect our presidents – so bemusing to many foreigners – Hillary Rodham Clinton got more of the people’s vote than Obama in the primaries: 18,223,120 to his 18,011,877. Neither candidate received enough delegates from state primary races and caucuses to reach a majority at the party convention, but “superdelegate” votes pushed Obama over the top.
Some problems would attend a Clinton campaign. She would obviously need to resign as secretary of State. But she has already said she will leave that position at the end of a first Obama term.
Would it be unseemly to campaign against a Democratic president in whose cabinet she served? Well, Jon Huntsman Jr., a Republican who served as Obama’s ambassador to China, seems to have rationalized his readiness to campaign against Obama. He argues that he served the office of the president, not necessarily Obama the president. Clinton has been a loyal foreign minister for Obama, although privately pressing for more fervor on several issues.
Clinton’s main problem would be a late start against a president whose campaign is already under way. It is one in which Obama is intent on raising a war chest of record size.
She would be at a disadvantage in staffing and funding. The primaries determine which delegates are pledged to vote for which candidates at the convention. But they are not legally bound to vote for the winning candidates. Theoretically a dark horse could emerge at the Democratic convention if Obama’s ratings were so abysmal his reelection was deemed impossible.
However implausible a Hillary candidacy might seem, it would be surprising if the Clintons had not wistfully pondered the possibility of Hillary yet winning the presidency that once eluded her so narrowly.
John Hughes, a former editor of the Monitor, writes a biweekly column.