Hillary Clinton kicked off this year's World Affairs Council of Oregon international speaker series Tuesday, but did she effectively kick off her 2016 presidential campaign in Oregon? Most of the 3,000 attendees at her speech thought or hoped so.
More than two years away from the next presidential election, polls show Clinton is the leading Democratic candidate and the odds-on favorite to succeed Barack Obama in the White House. She was in a similar frontrunner position in 2008 until her campaign ran into an Iowa caucus headwind.
While Clinton had an impressive political resume in her previous presidential run, she has enhanced it even more after a four-year stint at U.S. secretary of state. Not only is she on a first-name basis with many political and civic leaders in her country, she has a personal relationship with most of the world's leaders. She has experience and that other often overlooked quality of being a known quantity.
In her Portland speech, Clinton advanced what could become her central theme in a presidential campaign — the economic benefits of erasing gender inequality. She said in addition to being unfair and wrong, gender inequality is stupid economics. If women were allowed to flex their full productivity, there would be a significant gain in the nation's overall gross domestic product. In a political climate punctuated by "us versus them" arguments, her win-win strategy of gender equity has both a rational and emotional appeal.
Despite a raucous reception after she was introduced, Clinton kept her remarks well away from domestic politics. Only in the fabric of a question-and-answer session following her speech, did slivers of campaign inquisitive push through. Clinton admitted she was thinking about a presidential run. The next day, at yet another stop, Clinton told reporters the same thing.
Clinton's book about her tenure as secretary of state will be published mid-year and that could spark yet another round of media and talk-show interviews that thrust her even more into the limelight.
However, for many Oregonians — and not just the ones attending the private reception — the 2016 Clinton presidential campaign started this week at Keller Auditorium. It had all the sweet subtlety of the final question asked of Clinton — should she be called Madame President or Mrs. President? Only history will tell.