New polls fuel speculation about Hillary Clinton in 2016

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is more popular than she's ever been – and might well clear the Democratic field, were she to officially enter the 2016 presidential race.

Kevin Wolf/AP
Actress Meryl Streep uses her iPhone to get a photo of her and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton following the State Department Dinner for the Kennedy Center Honors gala Saturday, at the State Department in Washington.

Hillary Rodham Clinton hasn’t decided whether to run for president in 2016. Even if she does, she may not make it official for some time. But Mrs. Clinton is already becoming something of a campaign juggernaut.

Two new polls out this week highlight just how formidable a candidate Clinton might be. According to a new ABC News/Washington Post poll, 57 percent of all Americans would support Hillary Clinton for president – including 66 percent of all women. She even wins support among 23 percent of Republicans.

Likewise, a Siena College poll of New Yorkers released Wednesday found a 75 percent approval rating for Clinton – her highest ever in that poll – with 54 percent saying they wanted her to run for president. (Thirty-nine percent said they want the state’s governor, Andrew Cuomo – another rumored 2016 hopeful – to take the plunge).

Obviously, it’s very, very early, and presidential polls this far out are admittedly pretty meaningless, largely reflecting name recognition. And there’s no question that much of the warmth surrounding Clinton these days stems from her nonpartisan role as secretary of State, for which she wins plaudits from Democrats and Republicans alike (The ABC/Post poll found 40 percent of Republicans approved of the job she’s done at State). Were she to become an actual candidate again, that bipartisan goodwill could quickly fade.

Still, the combination of Clinton’s strong personal appeal and starpower, along with her still-active network of fundraisers and supporters, could easily clear the Democratic field.

As Washington remains mired in the slow-moving, eat-your-broccoli "fiscal cliff" negotiations, it's clear that speculation about Clinton’s future has become the capital’s most entertaining subplot.

She got a brief round of attention over the weekend for an instantly viral photo of her and actress Meryl Streep taking pictures of themselves together on Streep’s iPhone at the Kennedy Center Honors gala (ABC News called it the “picture of the night”). It was yet another item from the Hillary-Clinton-is-a-real-person file – for which the media seem to have an insatiable appetite – highlighting Clinton's fun side.

Even more buzzed-about was the slick video tribute shown at the Saban Forum, a Middle East conference. The film featured gushing praise for Clinton from current and former world leaders, from Benjamin Netanyahu to Tony Blair. As New Yorker editor David Remnick wrote, in a post titled “Hillary Clinton is running for president”: “The film was like an international endorsement four years in advance of the Iowa caucus and the New Hampshire primary.”

Watching it, we were struck by the effort to portray Clinton as a Margaret Thatcher type of leader – a woman with a backbone of steel who’s not afraid to take on thorny challenges. Mr. Blair highlighted her “strength and toughness.” Mr. Netanyahu called her “strong and determined.” Her former Senate colleague John McCain noted, “she has a smile, she’s friendly – and yet, beneath that friendship is a person with very firm convictions.”

In some ways, the video was so heavy-handed – the soundtrack featured Bruno Mars crooning “you’re amazing … just the way you are” in the background –that it came across as an almost deliberate attempt to tweak reporters. It even featured a “wink, wink” kind of ending, with Netanyahu saying, “I don’t think we’ve heard the last of Hillary Clinton,” and with Blair adding, “I just have an instinct that the best is yet to come.”

She may, indeed, be preparing to run. Or she may just be toying with us. Either way, she seems to be having fun.

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