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Hillary in 2016? Axelrod calls her ‘first among equals’

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Updated: May 28, 2013 7:58PM



WASHINGTON — Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton hits Chicago on June 13 to be honored by CURE, the epilepsy research foundation — this while a new poll and the start Wednesday of a new chapter in her life are sparking even more speculation about a 2016 White House bid.

CURE — Citizens for Research in Epilepsy — was founded by President Barack Obama’s former top strategist David Axelrod, and his wife, Susan, 15 years ago; their daughter, Lauren, has epilepsy.

Clinton, then the first lady, was the draw at the group’s very first fund-raising dinner and the boost from her star power was “instrumental in getting us started,” Axelrod told me.

The June event will be at the Navy Pier Grand Ballroom and Clinton (a Chicago native: born in Edgewater Hospital, raised in Park Ridge) will deliver remarks for the CURE fund-raiser at a time when guessing about a future presidential run is the top political sport.

Since leaving the State Department, Clinton has been “an extraordinarily in demand speaker and this will be one of her early appearances. We’re thrilled to have her,” Axelrod said.

Axelrod and I spoke on Wednesday — the day after a Gallup Poll showed Clinton’s popularity soaring. Clinton’s 64 percent favorable rating was above Obama’s 55 percent and Vice President Joe Biden’s 45 percent.

Clinton on Wednesday was delivering the first of a series of highly paid speeches for private groups, with the poll and the speeches driving her political futures higher this week.

In a round of interviews before she left State, Clinton said she would be taking some time off to catch up on sleep and get in shape. Instead, she’s working on a memoir and filling her calendar with dates.

Of course I asked Axelrod about Clinton and 2016.

“She is better off staying far away from politics for a while, in my view. I think you can be out there and speak to issues and not be part of the political fray,” he said.

Clinton has a special status right now, with her four years at State putting her “more in the category of statesman and that’s a good category to be in and if I were her, I’d want to preserve that status as long as possible.”

There’s been rampant speculation about Biden and Clinton circling each other with an eye at 2016.

“I love the man,” Axelrod said of the vice president, “but I think there is general acknowledgment that she is by far the first among equals and if she decides to run, I think she would be the prohibitive favorite to be the nominee. And she would be a strong candidiate in the general election. I think there is broad agreement on that.”

Axelrod and Clinton years ago put behind them the hard fought 2008 Democratic primary — where Axelrod steered Obama’s winning bid.

He is “deeply grateful” that Clinton is coming home in June to boost CURE — which since its founding in 1998 has raised more than $26 million for research.

For those who may see a Democratic primary between Biden and Clinton — no way, said Axelrod.

“I would be shocked if the two of them ended up running against each other. I don’t think that would happen.”

It also would not be shocking if Clinton did not run. But if she does what is certain, said Axelrod, is this: “She will be very formidable.”



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