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Hillary Clinton for president? The drumbeat begins

Hillary Clintcampaigns for president Logan W. Va. May 2008. |  Elise Amendola~AP

Hillary Clinton campaigns for president in Logan, W. Va., in May 2008. | Elise Amendola~AP

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Updated: December 20, 2012 6:13AM

“Hillary 2016!”

He’s already ordered the campaign buttons.

“We will be back in Iowa for Hillary in 2016!” my friend Terry Cosgrove, president and CEO of Personal PAC, emailed the other day.

The wheels of the next presidential cycle are beginning to turn, and legions of Hillary Clinton acolytes are gearing up.

Indeed, the former first lady and U.S. senator is uniquely positioned for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination.

Yet, these days, Clinton speaks of other things. About stepping down from her uber-job as secretary of state. She wants time for exercise and personal travel. Maybe grandchildren down the line.

She never utters the “P” word, but for voters yearning for the first woman president, Clinton is the one they’ve all been waiting for.

Why wait for Hillary? We can pop the corks right now.

2012 was “a very good year for women in politics,” Debbie Walsh said Thursday night at a post-election forum hosted by The Chicago Network, a group of influential women leaders.

In January, the 113th Congress will convene the largest female contingent ever, noted Walsh, director of the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University. Voters in the Nov. 6 election sent an unprecedented 20 women to serve in the U.S. Senate, Walsh reported. At least 78 women will go to the U.S. House.

There will be new “firsts,” such as Mazie Hirono, a Hawaiian and the first Asian American to serve in the House. Another Hawaiian, Tulsi Gabbard, will be the first Hindu American in Congress, and Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin, the first openly gay U.S. senator. New Hampshire became the first state to elect an all-female congressional delegation and woman governor.

It’s a notable shift, especially for Democrats. Thirty percent of the Senate’s Democratic caucus will be female. “That is significant, and these are no shrinking violets. … They will be a force to be reckoned with,” Walsh said.

Perhaps the reckoning is already here.

In the House, as a group, women and minority Democrats will outnumber their white male counterparts, CNN reported last week. The House’s Republican membership is mostly white and male.

The Gallup organization measured a 20-point gender gap in the 2012 vote, the largest since the organization began tracking demographic data in 1952.

“President Barack Obama won the two-party vote among female voters in the 2012 election by 12 points, 56 percent to 44 percent, over Republican challenger Mitt Romney,” Gallup reports. “Romney won among men by an eight-point margin, 54 percent to 46 percent.”

The debate over reproductive rights is key. “So many men just don’t have a space in their brain” for that cause,” says Cosgrove, who heads Illinois’ leading pro-choice group. “We have placed women’s health care, particularly reproductive health care, at the forefront of the political discourse.” That “helps candidates who are women, as it is easier, right or wrong, to think women would be better on these issues.”

Come 2016, Hillary could be the icing on the cake.

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