A newly released Public Policy Polling survey from their latest Wisconsin poll shows Hillary Clinton forging a commanding lead over possible presidential rivals in 2016. Clinton leads Paul Ryan 51% to 43%, Scott Walker 54% to 41%, and early Republican front-runner Marco Rubio 52% to 38% in the poll. While it seems premature to think of the former Secretary of State as the Democratic nominee-in-waiting, the field appears to favour her considerably.
Clinton recently told CNN that she is looking forward to having "no schedule, no office to go to, no responsibilities." Since the decision not to continue as the country’s lead diplomat was made, she has appeared to relish the opportunity to step back from public service. Given the rigors of running a hard-fought campaign, followed by service in a role that is not known for its tolerable schedule, this would seem to be an entirely realistic decision. However, at the age of 65, Clinton is not likely to have served in her final role. Recent health issues aside, it would be surprising to see Clinton fade completely from public life.
Time away from a demanding role with notable time constraints would certainly be conducive to another presidential run. Clinton plans to write a second memoir, which could act as a precursor to a run. The renewed vigor that stepping back from public life would bring would certainly enable her to approach a potential campaign fully focused.
At this stage, Clinton appears to be the safest prospect for Democrats to retain the White House once more. While Clinton’s current approval rating of 67% (according to an ABC News/Washington Post poll) could not realistically be maintained during a presidential campaign, her popularity does not appear to have been affected negatively by the events and subsequent fallout surrounding the Benghazi incident. On the contrary, only 32% of Republicans polled harbor "strongly unfavourable" opinions of Clinton, compared to 70% during her 2008 campaign. While detractors are likely to be less vociferous outside of a campaign, when there is less at stake, this is a positive trend.
In terms of the Democratic field, there does not appear to be an obvious challenger to Clinton. Joe Biden may be tempted to run for a third time, though he would do well to consider his previous campaign failures before making such a decision. The rest of the potential field lack name recognition at this stage, meaning that we would have to see another upstart candidacy in order for Clinton to be defeated for a second time. While this is not impossible, it is likely that Clinton would want to be certain of victory before committing to the race. Before she has even declared her candidacy, the first super PAC supporting her, Ready for Hillary PAC, has already started hiring staff. This would provide a large financial edge over any potential challenger on day one.
Hillary Clinton has provided herself with an opportunity to successfully remove herself from the public sphere. It is more than likely, however, that she will be unable to resist another attempt at occupying the highest office. Were she to do so, the building blocks for a Clinton candidacy are already in place.