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