Hillary Clinton: 1-Term President?

If she runs in 2016 and pledges to serve only four years, will she seal her chances? Strategists weigh in.

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Getty Images

(The Root) — There are only two sure things about the next presidential election: Hillary Clinton isn’t sure she wants to run for president again, and plenty of people are sure they want her to. According to a poll released shortly after this year’s presidential election, Clinton would blow any competition out of the water in the all-important first primary contest in Iowa, with a staggering 58 percent of the vote.

So why wouldn’t she run? Well, actually, she has several good reasons not to. The first is the one she and her husband repeat most often: namely, that after 20 years in the public eye in one grueling role after another — from first lady to U.S. senator to presidential candidate to secretary of state — she actually wants to do things like sleep.

Who can blame her? When you compare her life of dodging one diplomatic crisis after another with her husband’s life — filled with high-paying speeches and the occasional TV interview — whose life sounds like more fun? Then there are the more practical considerations.

She will be 69 in four years, and 73 in eight. Though President Reagan was 69 when he took office, it is still an age that may raise eyebrows among some — including some voters who may not be willing to admit that they view an older woman in more judgmental terms than they do an older man.

But perhaps most important of all, the chances that any party will hold on to the White House for a full 16 years are low. This means that if Clinton runs for president in 2016, she’ll be running with the knowledge that thanks to eight years of Barack Obama, the likelihood of her being re-elected to a second term as president, should she win, is reduced.

So what if Clinton did the unthinkable? What if she announced that she will run for president in 2016, but only for one term?

The Appeal of One Term

The idea is not entirely laughable, at least not according to various political consultants.

“It’s a great question,” said Michael Goldman, a Boston-based political consultant who worked on the presidential campaigns of Michael Dukakis and Paul Tsongas. “Because there is a sense that if you’re really free, you could do everything.” Goldman was referring to the “freedom” a president might exhibit in his or her decision-making if he or she is not worried about winning re-election.

Basil Smikle, a Democratic strategist who was an aide to then-Sen. Clinton, said, “Hillary will get voters based on who she is and her qualifications, regardless of how many terms she wants to run for.” He added, “I think, for the average voter, hearing a candidate come out and say they ‘don’t care about re-election’ and therefore will spend every day of their term doing something that sticks to their moral compass … most voters want that and want a leader who exhibits that kind of fearlessness.”

But a one-term pledge “will make it tough to govern,” he also said.