Hillary Rodham Clinton's minions are hard at work assembling a political machine and fine-tuning it for another go at the White House. Clinton is doing her part preparing for a run as well, churning out a bland memoir about the "hard choices" she faced as secretary of state and coyly positioning herself (again) as the inevitable nominee of the party. But after the troubled beginning to her book tour, we're beginning to see the reasons why Clinton may eventually decide to pull the plug on a 2016 presidential run. Here are five:
1) She's just not that good at campaigning. If the last two gaffe-prone weeks have reminded us of anything about Hillary, it's that she's a mediocre politician at best. Her shortcomings are significant: She can be stiff and wooden in public; she lacks the aura of a natural politician; she's not a great public speaker, and she can come across as politically flat-footed and tone deaf — as she did with her "dead broke" response to a rather benign question about relating to the financial challenges of the average voter. People still seem to believe that the Clinton name is synonymous with political skill, but that assumption is only half-true: If Hillary possessed even half of Bill's political talent and acumen, she wouldn't have lost to Barack Obama in 2008.
2) The "fire in the belly" question. Certainly, Clinton shares her husband's seemingly limitless ambition. It's been the driving force behind their existence as individuals and as a couple for more than four decades. But I'm with Mike McCurry, President Clinton's former spokesman, on this one: Hillary Rodham Clinton is going to be 67 years old on Oct. 26. Does she really want to spend her golden years working 16 hours a day shaking hands at high school gyms in Dubuque, Iowa, and rubbing elbows at diners in Manchester, N.H.? Especially when she can burnish her legacy with meaningful work through the Bill, Hillary & Chelsea Clinton Foundation — while making millions a year at $200,000 a pop for 45-minute speeches — and spend time with her soon-to-be born grandchild.
3) It ain't gonna be a coronation. HRC must have been taken aback last week when two members of the traveling sisterhood — Diane Sawyer of ABC News and Terry Gross of NPR — actually pressed her with uncomfortable questions about Benghazi, Libya, and gay marriage, respectively. Clinton didn't respond well in either situation, and the ensuing coverage was instructive. If she can't count on favorable press coverage during the choreographed rollout of a self-reverential memoir, what does that tell us about how she'd do in debates against a determined opponent? And does Clinton really want to face the scrutiny, not to mention the slings and arrows, that come with any campaign?
4) Obama is leaving a mess. President Obama's second term is complicating matters significantly for Clinton. Obama's foreign policy — which Clinton helped direct for four years — is adrift. The situation has unraveled dangerously in Syria and now Iraq. The infamous "reset" with Russia is a joke. Obama's job approval rating is on the slide, and not only on foreign policy. He's struggling to stay relevant in Washington or to move any sort of domestic agenda forward, which will be made even more difficult if Republicans take the Senate in November. It's hard to see how any of these dynamics change for the better in the next two years — and they may get worse. Clinton will not want to be seen as running for Obama's third term, yet she won't be able to distance herself too far from his record. That will be a tough needle to thread politically (see point No. 1).
5) The country wants real change. America was mesmerized by Obama's call for change in 2008. It was one of the narratives that propelled him over Hillary Clinton in the first place. Eight years later, Obama has failed to deliver much of what he promised on uniting the country and changing business as usual in Washington. As a result an even stronger populist, anti-establishment, anti-incumbent fervor is coursing through the electorate. That does not bode well for Clinton, who embodies the elite establishment — and the past. If the famed Clinton political acumen still exists in that family, Hillary will figure this out and take a pass on 2016.
Tom Bevan is the co-founder and executive editor of RealClearPolitics and the co-author of "Election 2012: A Time for Choosing."