Helen Aguirre Ferre

Formidable, but not inevitable

Hillary Clinton positioning herself for a White House run.
Hillary Clinton positioning herself for a White House run. AP

Although she is being coy about it, Hillary Clinton, very few doubt, will run for president in 2016. For all practical purposes, she has been running for the last eight years. As secretary of state, she remained politically relevant in a popular administration, but recent poll numbers show that a majority feel the country is moving in the wrong direction.

Does this make Clinton vulnerable? Some think that it might.

A small but significant faction of the base of the Democratic Party is unhappy; they want the party to move more to the left. These progressives, who tend to be more to the left than traditional liberals, resent compromise and centrist positions. Some desire a left-wing tea party that would be unafraid to challenge the party establishment and reject compromise even at the expense of losing an election.

As much as they like Clinton, they worry that she is too moderate. They are looking at another woman: U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren from Massachusetts. There are more than a few who would love for Warren to throw her hat in the race for president.

The two possible rivals have known each other for years. In an interview with PBS’ Bill Moyers, Warren tells of a meeting with then-first lady Hillary Clinton who wanted to better understand a bill in Congress that would make it more difficult for debt-laden customers to claim bankruptcy. Warren, then a university professor, had written an opinion piece arguing that this legislation would unfairly hurt the most vulnerable, particularly single mothers. Convinced that Warren was right, Hillary worked against the bill. When it passed the Republican Congress and came to President Bill Clinton’s desk, he vetoed the legislation.

Yet, when the bankruptcy bill came up again a few years later, then-Senator Hillary Clinton voted in favor of it.

Was it because Clinton fell under the influence of the banks and credit-card companies that supported it? Warren would say Yes: “She has taken money from the groups and, more to the point, she worries about them as a constituency.” Those could be fighting words some day.

Warren is not the only Democrat who may be thinking of a primary challenge: Jim Webb is another. Webb is not a typical Democrat; he was a former secretary of the navy under the Reagan administration. The former one-term senator and Vietnam War veteran opposed the invasion of Iraq under Bush as well as the intervention in Libya that ousted Moammar Gadhafi. His admonitions were ignored although history shows he was right. In contrast, Hillary Clinton voted in favor of the invasion of Iraq and was a proponent of joining forces with European nations to topple Gadhafi. Today, Libya is more dangerous than before.

Like Warren, Webb decries Wall Street’s corporate cronyism with Washington D.C., a view Clinton has not expressed. To the contrary, she has received significant sums in the form of speaking fees from the financial industry, which has also contributed to the Clinton Foundation.

President Obama’s declining poll numbers does Clinton no favors as she is inextricably tied to his controversial foreign-policy decisions. She is, however, intelligent, hard-working and resourceful.

Hillary Clinton, after years of work as first lady of Arkansas and intimate adviser to President Bill Clinton, brings an extraordinary amount of national experience. As former secretary of state she has more international experience than the last three presidents combined when they entered office. The criticism she receives from progressives can be translated into political virtues demonstrating that she is more centrist than not. Most impressive, she garnered more than 17 million votes in her first primary run.

The Clinton brand remains strong. Both she and her husband will be traveling to Iowa soon to campaign for Democrats running for office in the upcoming midterm election. Of all of her potential rivals, Warren, another brilliant legal mind, could present a formidable challenge especially if it were to divide women voters.

It is pretty unlikely that Hillary Clinton will become a stay-at-home grandma; she says that she will announce her decision in January. Rest assured if she runs, Clinton will fight for this nomination. Certainly, Obama taught her and her faithful allies that she can’t take anything for granted.