Hillary Clinton will step down as U.S. Secretary of State within ‘days’ of President Barack Obama’s second inauguration in January, her spokesman said today.
Her long-respected departure is expected by most Democrats to be a prelude for a White House run in 2016, when she will be 69.
The top candidate to replace her is believed to be Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts, Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the losing 2004 Democratic presidential nominee.
He is viewed as a more likely pick that Susan Rice, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, because of her widely-criticised appearance on Sunday talk shows in which she insisted that spontaneous deomonstrators in Benghazi had killed the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans.
Other possibilities include Tom Donilon, the National Security Adviser, David Petraeus, CIA director, Chuck Hagel, a Vietnam veteran and former Republican senator, Samantha Power, an Irish-born former journalist, and William Burns, Clinton’s deputy.
‘The Secretary has been honoured to serve as President Obama’s Secretary of State, and has loved every minute of leading this Department and being part of the State family,’ Philippe Reines, a Clinton spokesman, said in an email to the ‘Weekly Standard’.
He added: ‘She has said that she wants to ensure continuity, and realises the confirmation of her successor might take a period of days beyond that.’
He did not answer questions on whether she would run for president after she steps down following Obama’s inauguration in January.
If Mrs Clinton does run in 2016, it could set up an intriguing ‘back to the future’ – a term Bill Clinton used in supporting his wife in 2007 – contest between her and Jeb Bush, the former Florida governor.
Jeb Bush, the younger brother of President George W. Bush and son of President George H.W. Bush, was counted as a 2012 candidate and is already being mentioned as a 2016 contender.
More likely, perhaps, is that Bush, 59, will emerge as a kingmaker, perhaps for his close ally Senator Marco Rubio, 41, of Florida.
Hillary Clinton is not usually one to keep a low profile – but as the eyes of the world turned on American politics this week, the Secretary of State was nowhere to be seen.
Her mysterious absence – she was not even pictured in public from last Thursday until today – led to speculation she is busy preparing for her own run at the White House in 2016.
Clinton has previously announced that she is to step down from State early next year, and this week her spokesman confirmed that she was set to leave office within months.
She’s back: Hillary Clinton was pictured in Washington DC on Thursday after a week out of the spotlight
Last week, she embarked on a tour of the Balkans, meeting officials in Serbia, Albania, Croatia and Kosovo – far away from the electoral fray as Barack Obama faced off with Mitt Romney in a successful attempt to win four more years as President.
And next week Clinton is expected to visit Australia for an international summit, though even this has not been officially confirmed.
Bill Clinton, who was one of the President’s most important surrogates throughout the campaign, spoke at a number of events over the weekend, but was not joined by his wife.
Rivals? Clinton could have been distancing herself from Obama to prepare the ground for a 2016 run
The couple apparently voted together near their home in Chappaqua, New York on Tuesday evening, but their trip to the polls was not publicised or photographed.
Hillary finally resurfaced on Thursday, when she presided over a ceremony to grant U.S. citizenship to children born abroad and adopted by American parents.
She has repeatedly claimed that she will not run for President again after her failed bid in 2008, and has added that she will not seek any public office after leaving State.
However, many pundits are sceptical of her protestations, and the main article this morning on Politico, a news website popular with insiders, anointed her the frontrunner for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2016.
Clinton’s decision to stay out of the limelight could, therefore, have been a hedging strategy designed to distance her from Obama in the event that he lost.
Strangely, given her pivotal role in the Obama administration, Hillary seems to have ended up being less important to the President than Bill is.
The 42nd President, rather than his wife, was the first person Obama phoned after Romney conceded defeat.
Now that Obama has been re-elected, some expect Mrs Clinton to grow closer to him in an attempt to portray herself as part of a winning team – although she may calculate that by 2016, Americans will be so tired of him that she will have to present herself as the face of change if she is to make it to the White House.
Her movements over the next weeks, months and years will doubtless be carefully monitored to work out whether or not she is indeed manoeuvring for a 2016 power grab.
Source: The Daily Mail