The ten women most likely to run for president
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The ten women most likely to run for president

Washington : DC : USA | Apr 11, 2013 at 9:49 PM PDT
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Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton's House in Washington D.C.

With Hillary Clinton out of public life for the first time since 1982, one of the most popular games in Washington is speculation about her intentions for the 2016 presidential race. A Clinton candidacy would clear the Democratic field, but looking across the United States who are the other women who could potentially run for president, either in 2016 or at some other point in the future?

During the 2008 and 2012 elections, the women’s vote attracted more attention than it has in recent years. The Republican Party hoped that Sarah Palin’s 2008 vice-presidential candidacy would enable them to make inroads into the country’s largest voting bloc. While the GOP did in gain a higher percentage of the women’s vote than previously, it was nowhere near enough to sway the outcome.

Chart 1: Female percentage of Democratic presidential voters, 2000-2012

http://www.centerforpolitics.org/crystalball/content/images/KDK2013041101-chart1.png

(Source: Larry Sabato, Centre for Politics, University of Virginia)

The following is a list of the 10 women best positioned, or most likely to seek to become the nation’s first female president (listed in no particular order).

Hillary Clinton

After eight years as a United States senator and four years as US Secretary of State, Clinton no longer relies on being anyone’s husband to prove her worth in politics. Despite this, her biggest asset remains her husband. After a few quiet years, former President Bill Clinton roared back to life at the 2012 Democratic National Convention. Never a good poker player, the best indication of Hillary’s future intentions were found when Bill ramped the Clinton "machine" into high gear for Obama’s re-election campaign; reacquainting himself with Democratic voters and, more importantly, the party’s big-money powerbrokers. Coupled with the recent announcement that her 2008 presidential campaign debt has been paid off means Hillary can start a new candidacy afresh.

Throughout her four-year tenure at Foggy Bottom, Clinton was by far the most popular member of President Barack Obama's Cabinet; indeed, often more popular than the president himself. The biggest downside is that she is the Democratic that Republicans love to hate, and many would love a chance to take her down.

Few things are certain in life; death and taxes are two. Clinton running for president in 2016 is the third.

Michele Bachmann

Bachman’s biggest problem is Bachman. This right-wing leader of the Tea Party Caucus in the US House of Representatives hates President Obama, Democrats, and anyone who doesn’t support her rabid brand of conservatism. She is so conservative that many Republicans want nothing to do with her, and ironically that is one of her strengths. Despite recently being elected to her fourth term in Congress, her refusal to toe the party line identifies her as an outsider at precisely the time that voters have lost trust in Washington.

Despite leading early polling, her 2012 presidential campaign was an unmitigated disaster. She ran a single-issue campaign, “to make Barrack Obama a one-term president.” Despite being born in Iowa, winning the Iowa Ames Straw Poll in late 2011, and limiting her campaign to that state, Bachman finished sixth in Iowa’s January 2012 caucus with just 5 percent of the vote. For six months prior to the Iowa caucuses, Bachman was a mainstay of Sunday morning press shows, and going from a presidential candidacy with a national audience back to being a relatively low-ranking member of Congress where she does not chair any committees or subcommittees will likely not sit well with her.

After facing a tougher than expected re-election to her House seat in 2012, Bachman is sure to consider challenging Al Franken for his US Senate seat in 2014. Her ability to raise bucket loads of money, combined with the left's loathing of her, would see this race vault to one of the most watched in the midterm cycle. A victory would provide her with a national platform to sell her brand of conservatism, and would almost certainly see her wage another campaign in 2016. Her chances of running state-wide are high; her chances of winning are slim at best. Similarly, the chances of her running for president again are high; her chances of actually winning are less than zero.

Stephanie Herseth Sandlin

South Dakota’s Herseth-Sandlin, granddaughter of a former governor, and wife of a former congressional representative, won a special election to the House of Representatives in 2004, winning election to full-terms in the next three elections before narrowly losing in one of 2010’s marquee races. At just 42 years of age, her full political potential may yet be realised. Following her move back to her home state in 2012, many pundits expect her to run for statewide office in 2014. Most expect she will seek to replace Tim Johnson, who is retiring from the Senate, but the governor’s mansion would also be a juicy target for her. She could choose to take on an incumbent governor for the statehouse, or face a former governor for the senate. Both races would be very tough to win, but Democrats have a strong record of statewide victories in South Dakota, and with a Heidi Heitkamp-style campaign, she could eke out a narrow win.

A 2014 Herseth Sandlin candidacy is almost certain; the only question being which race. A victory is possible, but less certain. If she were to attain statewide office, she would catapult to the top of any vice presidential list. A victory, combined with her youth, would make her a star presidential candidate for years to come, and while 2016 will be the year of Clinton, 2020 or 2024 could well be the year of Sandlin – provided she wins in 2014.

Tulsi Gabbard

Hawaii’s freshman representative to Congress, Gabbard, was making waves in Washington before she’d even moved there. Before she was even sworn in as the new representative to Hawaii’s 2nd congressional district, her name was shortlisted by Gov. Neil Abercrombie to fill the Senate vacancy caused by the death of Daniel Inouye. She has served two deployments to the Middle East, was a member of the Honolulu Council, and in 2002, at the age of 21, she became the youngest woman in American history elected to a state legislature when she served one-term in the Hawaii House of Representatives. Gabbard already has a national presence, as she is currently one of five vice chairs of the Democratic National Committee. All indications are that she has a long and successful political career ahead of her, the only question being which road to take. At just 31 years of age, time is on her side, so she can afford to be patient and pick her opportunities. Given her ambitions, though, it is doubtful she’ll wait long before attempting to fulfil them.

Susana Martinez

New Mexico’s governor is the dream political candidate, regardless of party or ideology. A woman, a Hispanic, and a chief executive of a border state with strong credentials in fighting crime (as a former US Attorney), and maintaining border security, Martinez would be a highly desirable candidate. So far her administration has been devoid of any major scandal, her approval rating remains above 50 percent, and no credible Democratic challenger has emerged. She also faces no risk from the right, as she was a Tea Party endorsed candidate in 2010. If Marco Rubio is not the Republican presidential nominee in 2016, then it is almost certain that Martinez will be the Republican vice presidential running mate.

Nikki Haley

In 2010 and early 2011, the stars were in alignment for South Carolina’s governor; but that was two years ago, and this is 2013 where Haley is trying to stave off a conservative primary challenge. Her administration has been marred by scandal; not the least of which saw the resignation of her lieutenant governor for convictions on ethics violations. Haley herself has been subject to numerous investigations and rumours about her personal life and conduct. Can Haley survive these precarious times and reinvent herself in the future, in much the same way as her disgraced gubernatorial predecessor Mark Sanford? At this stage, a national candidacy of any type is beyond her reach.

Elizabeth Warren

Ted Kennedy was nicknamed the Liberal Lion of the Senate; the woman who now holds his seat is already carrying the national mantle as leader of a new generation of liberal idealists. In 2012, Harvard professor Warren created the most formidable Democratic political fundraising machine, second only to Obama and the Clinton’s, raising more than $39 million, the most of any Senate candidate in the last election. She easily defeated incumbent Republican Scott Brown, who had won the special election following Kennedy’s passing. With John Kerry’s resignation to become US Secretary of State, Warren was elevated to Massachusetts’s senior senator after less than one month in Congress. She is a liberal populist firebrand who could mount a formidable candidacy, but she is a liberal firebrand from Massachusetts, and it is doubtful whether the party would embrace another northeastern liberal from Massachusetts, following the defeats of Dukakis in ’88 and Kerry in ’04. Still, if she were to run, there would be few in the party who could stop her.

Kirsten Gillibrand

The junior senator from New York goes about her job quietly. She has been that way since she first entered Congress in 2007 after upsetting an incumbent Republican to win the first of two terms in the US House of Representatives, before then New York Governor David Paterson appointed her to the US Senate to replace Clinton following her resignation to become secretary of state. Gillibrand faced token opposition in the 2010 election (to fill the remainder of Clinton’s term), and her recent 2012 election to her first full six-year term. She won election with almost $2 million cash on hand, with no reported debt, an impressive figure for someone who has six years to stockpile cash for a re-election. Gillibrand is encouraging Clinton to run for president in 2016, but many of New York’s big money donors are hopeful that should Clinton not run, Gillibrand would take her place. There are sufficient noises coming out of New York State to suggest that she might just do it.

Kim Guadagno

Kim Guadagno is a very powerful woman. In 2009, she was elected as New Jersey’s lieutenant governor, as the running mate of Republican favorite Chris Christie. So impressed was Christie with his new number two, that he appointed her as New Jersey’s secretary of state (in addition to her duties as President of the New Jersey Senate). She has a strong record in criminal justice, having served as an assistant US attorney for New York and New Jersey, and assistant attorney general for New Jersey and two years as sheriff of Monmouth County.

With Christie’s popularity, she will coast to re-election later this year, after which she may well turn her attention to the US senate seat of the retiring Frank Lautenberg. Should she win in 2014, she would make for arguably the most formidable white female Republican politician in the country. If she loses in 2014, or chose not to run, then she would probably succeed Christie as governor in 2017. If Guadagno is not on the 2016 republican presidential ticket, then in 2020 she almost certainly will be.

Sarah Palin

In 2009, she was the most popular Republican politician in the country, so she resigned as governor of Alaska just two-and-a-half years into her first time to capitalize on this fame. During the 2010 election cycle, her endorsement was the most sought after in conservative politics. Since then her star has fallen rapidly; however, a political comeback is not out of the realm of possibility. As a national figure, state or congressional office would hold little appeal, so it is more plausible that she might start to redevelop political machine and try in 2016. A Palin candidacy is not as certain as a Clinton one, but it’s not far behind.

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U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton
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Bryan Cranston is based in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, and is an Anchor on Allvoices.
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