By Dan Merica
WASHINGTON (CNN) — The early favorite to win the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination walks a tightrope.
Hillary Clinton has said she is in no hurry to decide whether she’ll seek the White House. But the former secretary of state, first lady and senator stokes the assumption that she’s in the game for a second time with every move she makes.
Such status raises a question: how much time does someone in her position want to spend in the limelight at such an early stage and with no indication she will even run?
After years immersed in foreign affairs as America’s top diplomat, Clinton has begun to reemerge on the public stage.
She is starting to carefully weigh in on domestic issues and devote more time to her family’s foundation, the Clinton Global Initiative.
She jumped into highly charged political issues on race in a speech on Monday in San Francisco — sharply criticizing efforts to roll back the Voting Rights Act as well the Republican-led drive in some states to require voter identification.
“Not every obstacle is related to race, but anyone who says that racial discrimination is no longer a problem in American elections must not be paying attention,” Clinton said in her remarks to a group of fellow lawyers. “And despite the best efforts of many well-intentioned election officials, discrepancies and resources across precincts and polling stations still disproportionately affect African-American, Latino, and young voters.”
For Clinton, her appearance before the American Bar Association raised a few more eyebrows and is seen as a sign of things to come.
• She announced in Monday’s remarks that she would deliver a string of policy speeches in the coming months, including one in September on national security.
• Clinton is also writing a memoir due to be released in 2014.
• Next month, Clinton will host a fundraiser at her Washington home for Terry McAuliffe, a close family friend, mega-fundraiser, and the Democratic nominee for governor in the presidential battleground of Virginia.
All of this — the political stances, the fundraising help and the glossy memoir — has fueled speculation Clinton is already running for president.
She even has groups urging her to run — like The Ready for Hillary Super Pac that raised $1.25 million in the second quarter of 2013 — as well as organizations that are questioning her credentials and laying the groundwork to oppose a run.
“This keeps her out there. It keeps her prominent in the national debate, keeps her prominently talking about the issues that will matter in 2016,” CNN Chief National Correspondent John King said. “While publicly she tells her aides to say her inclination is not to run, she is preparing to run and she is doing everything she has to do to be ready to run.”
King said that it appears Clinton is trying to walk the line between being seen as resting on her front-runner status and enjoying the fact that she has the name recognition and prestige to wait longer than most anyone else.
The fact that Clinton is again making appearances has generated commentary over what kind of message she would want to articulate.
“At the moment, her only one (message) is that she is a woman,” writes Richard Cohen in an opinion piece in Tuesday’s Washington Post. “Becoming the first female president is a worthy goal, but it kind of falls into the category of miles traveled and countries visited. It is an achievement, even a stunning one, but it is not a stirring trumpet call.”
Cohen’s piece has been roundly criticized — largely because Clinton has yet to launch any campaign. But the fact that he wrote the column speaks to the larger point: whatever Clinton does in the near term will further fuel speculation about a candidacy.
This is not lost on Republicans.
By all indications, Clinton is the most feared potential Democratic presidential candidate. A number of groups, including the Stop Hillary PAC, have begun raising money to derail any effort to run before it could get started.
Other possible Democratic candidates — namely Vice President Joe Biden — have not received that kind of attention.
“She knows exactly what she is doing,” King said. “It is a signal to all of those people who are urging her to run — ‘Look, I can’t give you that answer. You are going to wait a year or more for that, but I am going to be out there and I am going to be in the mix. Don’t worry about it.'”
CNN’s Kevin Liptak contributed to this report.
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