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Will Hillary Clinton run for the Democratic nomination unopposed? (+video)

Hillary Clinton is reportedly now 100 percent sure to run, and will announce in early April. She has effectively cleared the Democratic field – a plus, compared with the crowded GOP race, but there could be a downside for her.

Hillary Rodham Clinton is now 100 percent certain to run for president, up from 98 percent, sources from her nascent campaign tell Politico. She came to that decision right after Christmas, and plans to announce her campaign in early April.

Was there any doubt that former Secretary of State Clinton would run? Nope, at least not in the past several months. Methodically, carefully, she has been building her team and lining up donors. And now, perhaps, the biggest question is whether any Democrats will make a serious run against her for their party’s nomination.

Martin O’Malley, who just left the governor’s chair in Maryland, has long been preparing to run. But he is holding back. Ditto Vice President Joe Biden, who has long wanted to make a third try for the Oval Office. Last week, he told ABC News’s George Stephanopoulos that “there’s a chance” he’ll run, but he’s seen as ready to run only if Clinton doesn't. Jim Webb, a one-term former senator from Virginia, says he’s running, but he’s a long shot.  

Then there’s Sen. Bernard Sanders (I) of Vermont, a self-described socialist who caucuses with the Democrats. He feels it’s important for progressive views to be represented in the campaign, and he may run – possibly as a Democrat – if Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D) of Massachusetts doesn’t. On Monday, he announced trips to Iowa and New Hampshire, both early nominating states, as well as Pennsylvania – signs he may get into the race. 

So far, Senator Warren insists she’s not running, and her actions bear that out. But Senator Sanders isn’t seen as a major threat to Clinton the way Warren would be. 

For Clinton, there’s no reason to announce anytime soon. Polls show she’s the prohibitive favorite for the Democratic nomination, without any formal announcement.

"It makes no sense to announce what she's doing now," a longtime Clinton confidante told the New York Daily News. "There's no advantage for her to become the lightning rod of the Democratic Party. I would not pick a date: I would try and stay out as long as I possibly could.”

The sooner Clinton announces, the sooner President Obama faces the label of “lame duck” and the sooner she returns fully to the campaign spotlight, with all the intense scrutiny that brings.

Besides, this past weekend showed that the Republicans are giving political reporters plenty to write about and that Democrats may well be better off sitting back and letting the opposition display its internal divisions. Between Sarah Palin’s rambling presentation and Donald Trump’s musings about 2016 at the Iowa Freedom Summit, plus the sight of four other possible GOP contenders at a Koch brothers event in Palm Springs, Calif., the Republican Party is giving us a rerun of the messy 2012 nomination process that ended with the Democrats holding onto the White House.

Not that Clinton can sit back and assume anything. The GOP field has some new faces that make it stronger than the 2012 field, starting with former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush. Soon enough, apparently, Clinton will announce her candidacy, and the reality of another presidential campaign will hit her.

The next question is whether there will even be any Democratic primary debates. The Republican National Committee has announced nine for its crew, in an effort to cut back on what seemed like a never-ending slugfest last time. For Clinton, it may well be tempting to agree to no debates. After all, if polls continue to show her with a massive lead against the rest of the Democratic field, what’s the point?

In fact, there may be a point. After four years as secretary of State and a two-year hiatus from public life, she will be rusty. True, Clinton won’t want members of her own party attacking her, but she may need the practice. After all, the eventual Republican nominee won’t go easy on her – or the Obama record, which she will have to defend, more or less.

History will weigh heavily on Clinton, who came into the 2008 cycle as front-runner, only to lose the nomination to Mr. Obama.

This time, Politico reports, “the Clinton team knows it can’t campaign with the swagger of a presumptive nominee because the air of inevitability was so damaging last time around.”

But there’s no Obama this time around. And some Clinton advisers are already talking running mates. Sens. Michael Bennet of Colorado and Tim Kaine of Virginia top early speculation, according to Politico. Other names include Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro, Labor Secretary Thomas Perez, Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey, and California Attorney General Kamala Harris, who is running for US Senate.

Perhaps we’re heading for the first US presidential ticket without any non-Hispanic white males. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

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