Is book tour a dry run for 2016’s election for Hillary Clinton?

It allows her to be a candidate without being a candidate and she will get all the benefits

New York

There is no race for US president this year or next but one woman will today take a very public step towards ensuring she’ll be ready to jump in when the time comes. Welcome to the Hillary Book Tour, that is less about selling books in 2014 – though that will hardly be a problem – than about assembling votes for 2016.

The velvet ropes at the Barnes & Noble bookshop in Manhattan’s Union Square will drop shortly before 11am and for Hillary Clinton show-time will have begun. As each eager fan approaches her table, she will smile, she will sign the inside cover page of her book, Hard Choices, and she will say over and over and over, “I don’t know yet”.

She won’t mind the question almost everyone will be asking. “Will she or won’t she?” Of course she will. It seems reasonable to assume she hasn’t decided not to run, or there wouldn’t be a book tour or possibly even a book. “It allows her to be a candidate without being a candidate and she will get all the benefits of that,” says veteran Democratic consultant Joe Trippi.

She was asked it, of course, in the first big TV interview of the tour – with Diane Sawyer on ABC – that was set to be broadcast in primetime on Monday night. Interviews with all the other major networks will follow. Can we expect a decision in 2015? “I’m not positive about that, but the way I make decisions, that is probably likely,” Mrs Clinton replies, displaying her talent for caution.

The tour will commence at 11am at the Barnes & Noble bookshop in Manhattan’s Union Square The tour will commence at 11am at the Barnes & Noble bookshop in Manhattan’s Union Square

It’s an aversion to risk that also filters through the book, at least according to New York Times reviewer, Michiko Kakutani, who at the weekend described it as “very much the work of someone who is keeping all her political options open”. According to John Dickerson for Slate.com: “This is not a book from someone who has nothing to lose.” Her account of her stint as Secretary of State, hesays,  “goes on at great length, but not great depth”.

With the book’s release also comes some polling that will do nothing to discourage Mrs Clinton’s wider ambitions. The ABC-Washington Post poll shows her with the support of 66 per cent of Democratic voters. Her putative rivals, Vice President Joe Biden and Massachusetts senator Elizabeth Warren, trail far behind with 12 per cent and 7 per cent support respectively.

The same survey also suggests that while 50 per cent of Americans disapprove of her handling of the September 2012 night when terrorists overran the Benghazi consulate and killed Chris Stevens,the US Ambassador to Libya, her overall standing seems solid. Somewhere between 55 to 67 per cent of Americans think she understands the problems of ordinary Americans, has new ideas, is honest and trustworthy and is a strong leader.

Those are formidable numbers. “I think she is the strongest candidate to run for the nomination of her party since Ronald Reagan in 1980,” Ed Rollins, a Republican consultant, told Fox News.

Perhaps trickiest for Mrs Clinton on ABC last night was not Benghazi but questions about her charging $200,000 for speeches. “Let me put it this way,” she told Ms Sawyer. “I thought making speeches for money was a much better thing than getting connected with any one group or company as so many people who leave public life do.”

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