Opinion Brief

Bill Clinton's DNC speech: Setting the stage for Hillary in 2016?

The Big Dog delivers a full-throated endorsement of President Obama — and also manages to not-so-subtly promote the Clinton brand

On Wednesday night, Bill Clinton electrified the Democratic National Convention with a spirited defense of President Obama's first term, potentially giving the incumbent a lift with unhappy voters who pine for the good old days of low unemployment under Clinton. The 43rd president's unequivocal endorsement of his Democratic successor also appeared to finally bury the hatchet between Obama and the Clintons, who fought a bitter primary battle in 2008 that reportedly left more than a few wounds, even after Obama tapped Hillary Clinton to be his secretary of State. Obama has all but conceded that he needs the Clintons' help to win re-election, which not only burnishes the Clinton brand, but puts Bill in a position where he could be "making the case for a President Hillary Clinton four years from now," says Elspeth Reeve at The Atlantic. Did Clinton's speech represent the first step toward a Hillary run in 2016?

Yes. The Clintons are back: Bill Clinton barely mentioned Hillary, "but the subtext was clear: The Clintons remain a force to be reckoned with in the Democratic Party," says Beth Fouhy at The Associated Press. Clinton pointedly reminded "voters of the robust economy he presided over during two terms in the White House with Hillary Clinton prominently by his side." Hillary will be 68 in 2016, and has repeatedly claimed she has no interest in running. But with this speech, the former president succeeded in "setting the stage for another White House bid" by Hillary — if she chooses to run.
"With a rousing speech on Obama's behalf, Bill Clinton raises thoughts of Hillary in 2016"

And Hillary is more formidable than ever: The convention audience so loved Clinton's speech Wednesday that the chants of "Four more years!" could "just as easily have been directed at him," says Steve Kornacki at Salon. The "Clinton restoration" is now well underway, and Hillary "looms over the '16 Democratic race as a frontrunner like we've never seen before." With four years as secretary of State under her belt, she is more popular than ever, and even Republicans, in a stark turnaround from the 1990s, have "portrayed both Bill and Hillary as sympathetic figures." The speech "undoubtedly advanced" Hillary's prospects in 2016.
"Bill Clinton's long game"

Hold on. Democrats have a lot of options: While Hillary's "star wattage and network of support is unrivaled," there are a lot of Democrats eyeing 2016, says Patrick O'Connor at The Wall Street Journal. How about Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley, "who doesn't shy from the possibility of a future White House bid"? New York Gov. Mario Cuomo, Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, and Sen. Mark Warner (Va.) are also contenders who could inject the party with new blood. And don't forget Vice President Joe Biden, "the only other candidate with comparable stature" to Clinton.
"Hopefuls for 2016 press the flesh with key deciders"

Read more political coverage at The Week's 2012 Election Center.

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