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

Smikle noted that these foes might not just be from the opposing party, either. “Every Democrat may not stand behind [a Democratic president],” he said, and not just because they are worried about their own re-election. “Some may essentially begin running to replace you as president the day you take office, since they know you are only planning to be there one term.”

Simmons concurred, noting, “There’s a reason you hear this one-term idea floated during campaigns. Campaign strategists talk about saying that all the time, but the people who are actually responsible for helping the person govern shoot it down.”

The Reality of the Campaign

In part because of concerns about his age and previous health struggles, Sen. John McCain was forced to issue an on-the-record denial that he was considering a one-term pledge during his last run for the presidency. (He was 72 at the time and had battled skin cancer.)

There was some mild speculation that the last Republican nominee, Gov. Mitt Romney, was mulling a one-term pledge after his campaign manager compared a possible Romney presidency to that of one-term President James K. Polk.

(In an emailed statement to The Root, former Romney-campaign senior adviser Kevin Madden wrote of the so-called one-term pledge: “It’s a gimmick that the media loves and that pundits who’ve never once set foot inside a campaign headquarters obsess over, but it’s still just a gimmick. Running for president requires a candidate to have a long-term vision for the country. That’s what makes a one-term pledge seem so unserious to me. Strategically, you also invite an avalanche of speculation about your nominee for vice president and a succession plan even before you’ve been elected, which is just an added layer of distractions to any argument you can make about the viability and importance of a first term.”)

But one point the Democratic consultants interviewed seem to agree on is that Hillary Clinton is an exceptional case, with exceptional name recognition and exceptional qualifications. With few other Democratic women considered as viable for the presidency in the near future as she is likely to be, Clinton’s desire for sleep, relaxation and normalcy may be trumped by the desire of women — particularly fellow feminists — to finally break America’s ultimate glass ceiling. And as polling indicates, Clinton is the woman best positioned to do it in four years.

Perhaps serving one term would represent the ideal compromise: Women get their history-maker, and Clinton gets her life back in four years rather than eight. But according to the experts, this is a possible recipe for positioning Clinton to be a successful presidential candidate — not, ultimately, a successful president.

Keli Goff is The Root’s political correspondent. Follow her on Twitter.

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