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Tuesday, January 29, 2013 - 7:20am
It's the biggest question in campaign politics: Will Hillary Clinton run for president again, in 2016?
We'll hear more from Clinton later Tuesday, as she sits down for an interview with CNN's Foreign Affairs Correspondent Jill Dougherty and Foreign Affairs Reporter Elise Labott scheduled to run in "The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer" which airs starting at 4 p.m. ET.
As Clinton gets ready to leave public service and enter private life, the outgoing secretary of state appears to be changing her answer.
"Well I'm not thinking about anything like that right now. I'm looking forward to finishing my tenure as secretary of state and catching up on 20 years of sleep deprivation," Clinton said Tuesday morning at a global townhall style forum at the Newseum in Washington.
In the event, she answered questions from Africa, Europe, Asia, South America as well as from questioners in the audience. The event was also live-tweeted in eleven different languages on Twitter, with people also participating through Facebook, YouTube and Skype.
That Clinton comment sounds similar to her response in a "60 Minutes" interview she did with President Barack Obama that aired Sunday on CBS.
"I think that, you know, look, obviously the president and I care deeply about what's going to happen for our country in the future. And I don't think, you know, either he or I can make predictions about what's going to happen tomorrow or the next year," answered Clinton, when asked about her political future.
Those answers sound different than her responses to such questions last year.
"Look, I'm flattered. I am honored," she told CNN's Wolf Blitzer last April, when asked about the chorus of Democrats who want Clinton to make another bid for her party's presidential nomination. "That is not in the future for me, but obviously I'm hoping that I'll get to cast my vote for a woman running for president of our country."
As late as last month, Clinton continued to downplay talk of another White House run, telling ABC's Barbara Walters that "I really don't believe that that's something I will do again. I am so grateful I had the experience of doing it before."
A Democratic strategist close to Clinton tells CNN not to read much into the change in language, and dismissed talk that Clinton's latest comments are any indication she's now more serious about mounting another presidential campaign. The strategist asked to remain anonymous to speak more freely.
Clinton's comments Tuesday came as the Senate Foreign Relations Committee confirmed Sen. John Kerry as secretary of state. The panel approved the nomination unanimously, by a voice vote. The full Senate is expected to confirm Kerry's nomination later Tuesday.
Kerry, the longtime senator from Massachusetts and 2004 Democratic presidential nominee, has served on the committee for decades and has served as the panel's chairman the past four years. Obama last month nominated Kerry to succeed Clinton as the country's top diplomat.
The joint interview with the president was Obama's idea.
"I just wanted to have a chance to publicly say thank you, because I think Hillary will go down as one of the finest secretary of states we've had. It has been a great collaboration over the last four years. I'm going to miss her," Obama said in the CBS interview.
It was the first time Obama had given a joint interview was president with anyone other than the First Lady. Was the interview a subtle endorsement by the president of Clinton, if she decides to run again in 2016?
The Democratic strategist close to Clinton says no.
"The interview was President Obama's way of putting a capper on Clinton's tenure as secretary of state, and of taking some credit for it," says the adviser. "The president's very proud he went this route of appointing his chief rival top an extremely important and high profile cabinet position and he sees her years as secretary of state as an important part of his legacy."
When asked about 2016 in the interview, the president chuckled, saying "you guys in the press are incorrigible. I was literally... [laughs] ...inaugurated four days ago, and you're talking about elections four years from now."
Obama and Clinton battled each other in tough and historic 2008 Democratic nomination battle, with Clinton dropping out in June of that year, at the conclusion of the primary and caucus calendar. After winning the general election that November, Obama asked his former rival to serve as secretary of state.
Vice President Joe Biden is also considering a 2016 bid. The vice president met with Democratic Party delegates last week, capping a number of moves he made over inauguration weekend that could be considered early signals that Biden may be laying the groundwork for a possible 2016 run for the White House.
Biden, who served nearly four decades as a senator from Delaware, unsuccessfully ran for the Democratic nomination in 1988 and 2008. On Election Day 2012, when asked if it was the last time he'd vote for himself, the vice president said "No, I don't think so."
But when asked last week in an interview with CNN Chief Political Analyst Gloria Borger if there were any reasons why he wouldn't run in 2016, Biden said "there's a whole lot of reasons why I wouldn't run. Um, I haven't made that decision. And I don't have to make that decision for a while."
A Democratic strategist close to Biden sees the Obama-Clinton interview as a parting gift to the secretary of state, and doesn't see the teaming up on TV as any threat to Biden. The strategist also asked to remain anonymous to speak more freely.
According to a CNN/ORC International poll conducted last month, 85% of Democrats and independents who lean towards the Democratic Party said they'd be very or somewhat likely to support Clinton if she makes another bid for the Democratic nomination, with two-thirds of Democrats questioned saying they would be very or somewhat likely to support Vice President Joe Biden if he runs. Other possible 2016 candidates mentioned in the survey trailed Biden by at least 10 points.