WASHINGTON – The most-watched woman in the world is coming back to Buffalo.
Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, a frequent visitor to Western New York during her eight years as a U.S. senator for New York, will return to the region Oct. 23 for a speech in the University at Buffalo’s Alumni Arena.
Clinton, the early and overwhelming favorite for the Democratic nomination for president in 2016, will speak as part of the university’s Distinguished Speakers Series, the university announced Tuesday.
The paid speech is one of several that Clinton is giving this year as her supporters rally for what they hope will be her second run for the presidency.
Clinton has remained mum on her intentions, but there are hints that she may run – none of them more coy than the one Clinton dropped herself when she joined Twitter on June 10, describing herself as follows:
“Wife, mom, lawyer, women & kids advocate, FLOAR, FLOTUS, US Senator, SecState, author, dog owner, hair icon, pantsuit aficionado, glass ceiling cracker, TBD...”
And while “to be determined” can mean many things, Clinton also said this at a women’s conference in Toronto last week: “Let me say this, hypothetically speaking, I really do hope that we have a woman president in my lifetime. And whether it’s next time or the next time after that, it really depends on women stepping up and subjecting themselves to the political process, which is very difficult.”
Clinton learned that the hard way last time, when she entered the 2008 campaign for president as the favorite on the Democratic side, only to lose the Democratic nomination narrowly to Barack Obama, who made up for Clinton’s many advantages with a groundbreaking grass-roots effort that catapulted him to the White House.
This time around, while Clinton travels to speak to the National Multi Housing Council and the Economic Club of Grand Rapids and UB and other such venues, what may or may not be a grass-roots effort on her behalf has sprung up in suburban Washington.
“Ready for Hillary” is a political action committee that claims no direct connection with the candidate it’s trying to lure to the race. But its founders include longtime Clinton campaign aide Adam Parkhomenko and longtime Clinton adviser James Carville recently sent out a fundraising pitch for the PAC.
On top of that, Ready for Hillary seems bent on building a bandwagon that Clinton can climb aboard should she choose to run.
In recent weeks, both retired Gen. Wesley Clark, a former presidential candidate, and Sen. Claire McCaskill, a Missouri Democrat whose early backing of Obama was crucial in 2008, took to the Ready for Hillary website to announce they were, well, you guessed it.
“In 2008, I was an early supporter of then-Sen. Obama’s campaign,” McCaskill said in a statement on the website. “I worked my heart out to elect him president. Now as I look at 2016 and think about who is best to lead this country forward, I’m proud to announce that I am Ready for Hillary.”
Then again, the other side is ready, too.
Republicans have been bashing Clinton relentlessly over lax security at the U.S. consulate at Benghazi, Libya, where an armed terrorist attack last September killed four Americans, including the U.S. ambassador, J. Christopher Stevens.
Benghazi seems to have taken a toll on Clinton’s approval rating, which has fallen in several recent polls. For example, a recent Bloomberg survey found that her favorable rating had dropped 12 points to 58 percent, while her unfavorable rating doubled, to 22 percent.
And beyond that, Clinton – always something of a lightning rod, not to mention a spark for Republican fundraising efforts – already has inspired the creation of America Rising, a new GOP effort aimed at snuffing out any hope the former first lady may have of returning to the White House as president.
“The Clinton Machine is extremely powerful, and we have seen it in action time and time again,” Matt Rhoades, the co-founder of America Rising and manager of Mitt Romney’s failed GOP presidential bid last year, wrote in a recent fundraising appeal. “We need to stop it before it is too late.”
Of course, the 2016 presidential election is three years and four months away, and no candidate is expected to officially declare for the race before the 2014 congressional elections.
That being the case, it’s unclear exactly how political Clinton’s UB speech will be.
Patricia Donovan, a university spokeswoman, said a committee that includes students and graduates decided to invite Clinton as well as the other 2013-14 Distinguished Speakers: theoretical physicist and author Michio Kaku on Sept. 25; author Malcolm Gladwell on Nov. 13; civil rights leaders Mary Frances Berry and Myrlie Evers-Williams on Feb. 26; CNN chief medical correspondent Sanjay Gupta on March 26; and magician David Blaine on April 26. The university did not say how much any of the speakers will be paid.
Clinton, who served as a U.S. senator from 2001 to January 2009, last traveled to the region as secretary of state in June 2009, when she attended a diplomatic event in Niagara Falls, Ont.
But she long professed a fondness for upstate New York. And as if to prove it, Clinton routinely kept a bowl of New York apples in her office at the State Department, longtime aide Philippe Reines said last year.