The Suspense Is Gone: Hillary Clinton Is Running and Everyone Knows It

On Tuesday, she gave her clearest signals yet that she’s running for president. The question now is when she’ll make it official.

SANTA CLARA, CA - FEBRUARY 24: Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton delivers a keynote address during the Watermark Silicon Valley Conference for Women on Tuesday.
Emily Schultheis
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Emily Schultheis
Feb. 24, 2015, 3:17 p.m.

SANTA CLARA, Calif. — Hillary Clinton closed her Tuesday speech to 5,000 women in Silicon Valley by delivering a line about what women can do to help other women.

“What you do does not have to be big and dramatic. You don’t have to run for office “¦” she trailed off, smiling and pausing as the audience laughed and cheered. Then she added: “Although if you do, more power to you.”

Clinton’s jokes landed because, at this point, everyone is in on it: the audience, the media and the rest of the political world all know that she plans to run for president in 2016.

The former secretary of State may have qualified her intentions to “crack every last glass ceiling” by saying she still hasn’t decided or still has things to think about before she makes her plans known. But, for all intents and purposes, the suspense is gone.

In its place Tuesday was a soon-to-be-candidate who felt comfortable loosening up in front of a friendly crowd. It was an important speech — an address to the Lead On Watermark Silicon Valley Conference for Women that served as her reemergence on the public stage after a month of hunkering down for strategy sessions with advisers in New York. And she delivered an important message, both by coming as close as she has yet to admitting she’s running in 2016 and by offering up the hints of the notes she’ll hit when she begins to campaign. But Clinton nonetheless smiled and cracked jokes.

In a Q&A with Re/Code editor Kara Swisher following her speech, Clinton acknowledged she is “obviously” looking at a presidential bid. “Look, if you don’t tell anybody, I am obviously talking to a lot of people, thinking it through,” she said. “We have so many big issues we have to deal with, that unless we really can come together and have a national conversation about those issues, we’re not going to make the progress we need.”

“I’d like to bring people, from right, left, red, blue, get them into a nice, warm purple space where everybody’s talking and we’re actually trying to solve problems,” she continued. “And that would be my objective if I decide to do this.”

As careful as Clinton is to use “if” in discussing a White House bid, the question everyone around her is asking is “when” — with most observers expect her to make her run official in April.

So, Swisher asked, why wait? She noted the friendly audience of thousands of women who were hoping to hear that Clinton is definitely going to run.

“All in good time is sort of my response, because there’s a lot to think about,” she responded. “I have a very long list, I’m going down it. And I haven’t checked off the last couple of things yet.”

Still, Clinton offered up, in broad strokes, an outline of what her overarching campaign message could look like. In her formal speech, she talked about the challenges women face, especially in the tech industry, and urged action on issues important to women such as paid family leave and wage equality. She said economic success “is not a birthright” and must be earned by each generation of Americans. And she gave the speech some personal touches, talking about her own experience being pregnant as a young lawyer at a firm without a set family leave policy, as well as her thoughts on being a new grandmother.

“We have to restore economic growth with rising wages for the vast majority of Americans, and we have to restore trust and cooperation within our political system so we can act like the great country we are,” she told Swisher, to applause from the audience. “This is where I’m supposed to say, ‘Stay tuned,’ but what I will say is: This is why we need to figure out how to go after this problem.”

For Clinton, whose public appearances in the past six months have been mainly campaign-trail speeches for 2014 candidates or more traditional policy-type speeches, the Q&A portion of Tuesday’s event also showcased a Clinton who appeared to be at ease — even cracking jokes onstage.

Asked whether she’s an iPhone or Android person, Clinton replied that she’s an iPhone person, but also noted that she still has a BlackBerry and also carries an iPad mini. “I don’t throw anything away — I’m like two steps short of a hoarder,” she joked.

Does she have an Apple Watch or a Fitbit? “Well, you can tell I’m not doing Fitbit,” she quipped, saying that she has “enough stress in her life” without a device reminding her to exercise. “I’m not in a wearable frame of mind.”

And as for whether she’d rather be president or host the Academy Awards, Clinton joked that she “didn’t think [she] could do the ‘Birdman’ imitation,” referring to a scene in which the movie’s main character walks through Times Square in his underwear (which this year’s Oscars host, Neil Patrick Harris, recreated last Sunday night). “That goes back to the Fitbit conversation,” she said, to more laughs.

The former New York senator also answered questions on policy issues ranging from the Obama administration’s response to ISIS, to net neutrality, to the National Security Agency surveillance program.

On ISIS, she said “a lot of the right moves are being made,” but acknowledged that eradicating the radical Islamic group is “a really complicated and long-term problem.” As for the NSA, Clinton said the agency “needs to be more transparent about what it is doing, sharing with the American people — which it wasn’t.”

By the end of her speech, Clinton sounded like a candidate. “The time to start is now,” she told the women in the audience. “I’m excited about what we can do together, and I believe that all of us can certainly show the way as we lead on to the kind of future we want.”

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