DENVER — A vanquished guest at another’s coronation, Hillary Rodham Clinton proved this week she is still a political force — in the short term and for the future.
She will return to the Senate with vastly enhanced stature. Another presidential bid is not out of the question, nor is a Cabinet post in an Obama administration. She’s almost certain to write a book, associates say, and will explore public policy opportunities beyond the Senate.
“She comes out of this week in Denver and the entire election season as a bigger and more powerful figure than she ever was before,” said Ruth Mandel, Director of Rutgers University’s Eagleton Institute of Politics.
In the opening days of the Democratic convention, the pending nomination of Barack Obama as the first black nominee from a major party was nearly overshadowed by Clinton, especially by questions of how forcefully she would back Obama and whether her army of supporters would swing his way.
In the end, Clinton delivered a forceful speech that left some Democrats wondering whether she might have been the stronger candidate to compete against John McCain.
“No way,” she said. “No how. No McCain.”
After her speech, Obama’s staff greeted Clinton backstage with applause.
On Wednesday, it was her call for Obama’s nomination to be approved by acclamation that helped build unity.
Polling indicates that Clinton remains widely popular among Democrats despite her narrow primary loss. Three quarters would like to see Clinton be a major spokesperson for her party as she serves out her term in the Senate, according to a USA Today-Gallup Poll conducted last week.
For now, Clinton’s first order of business will be helping elect Obama in November. For all the talk of bad blood between the two erstwhile rivals, her aides said Clinton wants the Illinois senator to prevail if only because she can’t bear the thought of another four years of GOP rule. She also knows that it would be impolitic to root against a fellow Democrat. And she surely doesn’t want to be blamed should Obama lose.
Many of her supporters believe Clinton’s continued popularity and strong showing in the primaries should earn her a prominent spot in an Obama administration — attorney general or secretary of state — or a seat on the Supreme Court. But her advisers said she would probably prefer to stay in the Senate, where she would have more freedom to pursue her own legislative and political agenda.