Why Hillary Clinton Might Want to Run

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton adjusts her glasses during a Global Townterview at the Newseum in Washington, Tuesd
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton adjusts her glasses during a Global Townterview at the Newseum in Washington, Tuesday, Jan. 29, 2013. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has not yet determined whether not she will run for president in 2016. Clinton has clearly wanted to be president for years, is well qualified for the position and is currently one of the most popular politicians in the country. However, she also may be ready for a change after spending the last 20 years in the public spotlight. Additionally, questions about her health could come up during the campaign. While it cannot yet be known if Clinton will seek her party's nomination in 2016, it is reasonably clear that if she runs, she will be the strong favorite for the Democratic nomination and have a good chance of beating any Republican opponent in the general election.

Should Clinton run, it would mean that it is possible that the Democrats, for the first time since the early 1950s will occupy the White House for 12 or more years in a row. This is part of the reason so many Democrats are excited about a potential Clinton bid for the White House. There is another reason, which should have particular resonance for Clinton, why she should consider running. If Clinton runs, she will be uniquely positioned to deal a potentially devastating blow, above and beyond a simple electoral defeat, to the Republican Party in its current extremist and intolerant iteration.

Clinton is probably the Democratic candidate who can best hold the most of the Obama coalition together while improving his numbers among white voters. This is partially due to Clinton's strength among white women, a group that Romney carried by 14 points in 2012, but is also due to Clinton being stronger with white male voters than Obama been. If she can even get to 45 percent of the white vote, or simply break even among white women while keeping Obama's numbers among Black, latino, LGBT and Jewish voters, Clinton could potentially not only solidify the Obama base, but remake political coalitions in a way that would reduce the Republicans to being on the periphery of American politics. This is, of course, a best case scenario; and there is a lot that can happen between now and November of 2016. Republicans should still be concerned about this possibility as it is, from their angle, a worst case, but still plausible, scenario.

Clinton has been uniquely despised by the far right for years. While some of this has subsided in recent years, it will come back with a vengeance should she run again. But spewing hatred and shouting names at Clinton is unlikely to stop her from winning. Many politicians, President Obama among them, have been targets of far right venom, but few as much, or for as long, as Clinton. For this reason, the idea of defeating the Republican Party resoundingly, and in a way that could bring the downfall of the party about, should be particularly alluring to Clinton.

Running for president simply because it would be extremely satisfying to defeat one's political foes is clearly not a sufficient or appropriate reason to run for that office, but it is equally clear that is not the only reason Clinton would run for president. Clinton is the most qualified, experienced and popular candidate in the Democratic Party. She is, in most respects, significantly better prepared for a successful campaign and presidency, than anybody else in the party. More importantly, for Clinton finally defeating the right-wing of the Republican Party in all its faux-patriotic, intolerant and increasingly irrational splendor would be more than just satisfying, it would be the culmination of decades of fighting against them and their destructive impact on American political life.

There is also a potential downside to Clinton's candidacy. While she is very popular now, she has not always been a popular political figure; and at times has been very controversial with high negatives. Although she won several primaries in 2008, Clinton has never won a competitive election as she faced no serious opposition when she ran for Senate in New York in 2000 and 2006. Moreover, remaining popular while out of office for four years is difficult, especially as it will not be easy to sustain the high note on which she is now leaving office.

Clinton's decision may rest upon her willingness to accept some risk. If Clinton does not seek the presidency, her legacy as an excellent U.S. Senator and Secretary of State will be intact, but the Republican Party will have a better chance of winning in 2016. If Clinton runs, the Democratic chances will look significantly better, and the prospect of becoming president will be very real, but defeat would be devastating and likely make Clinton better remembered for losing two presidential elections than for anything else. This is a tough choice, but one which is unavoidable.