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


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