Michael Barone

Will Hillary Clinton be elected America's next president? The polls suggest she will.

Recent polls compiled by Real Clear Politics show her winning 67 percent of the vote in Democratic primaries, with no other candidate above 11 percent. General election polling shows Clinton with an average lead over various possible Republican nominees of 51 to 39 percent.

But an election isn't over until it is over, and this one hasn't started. For one thing, no one is sure whether Clinton will actually run.

She turns 69 in 2016 (the same age as Ronald Reagan when he was first elected in 1980) and she may consider that her achievements in eight years as first lady and U.S. senator, and four years as secretary of state are enough for one lifetime.

Her achievements in that last office may look less impressive than they did in the first Obama term when majorities expressed approval of the president's foreign policy. Clinton's proudly proclaimed "reset" with Russia suddenly looks less like a triumph than a misfire.

She's also had health scares: a blood clot behind her right knee in 1998 and another in her skull in December 2012.

The 2016 election will be only the fourth in the last 40 years in which the incumbent president wasn't running. In the previous three -- 1988, 2000, 2008 -- the candidate of the president's party ran roughly in line with the incumbent's job approval.

That produced a 53 percent to 46 percent victory for George H. W. Bush, a popular vote plurality for Al Gore and a 53-46 defeat for John McCain.

The odd thing about 2016 polling is that Hillary Clinton runs far above Barack Obama's current job approval -- currently 43 percent -- while in the few polls pitting Vice President Joe Biden and others against Republicans, those Democrats run far behind.

That's odd, because we're in a period of straight-ticket voting, and in recent Senate and House elections, Democratic candidates have won percentages highly correlated with Obama's job approval.

One reason Clinton may be running ahead of the president's approval is the high retrospective approval of Bill Clinton's presidency. The 1990s are remembered, largely but not entirely accurately, as a time of booming job growth, technological progress, peace and American primacy abroad.

The last six years of Clinton's presidency, when Republicans had majorities in both houses of Congress, are seen as times of bipartisan cooperation and reform. Back in 2008, Obama said he wanted to be a transformative president like Ronald Reagan, rather than an accommodating president like Bill Clinton.


Michael Barone

Michael Barone, senior political analyst for The Washington Examiner (www.washingtonexaminer.com), is a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, a Fox News Channel contributor and a co-author of The Almanac of American Politics. To find out more about Michael Barone, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com. COPYRIGHT 2011 THE WASHINGTON EXAMINER. DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS.COM