Hillary’s active life as a private citizen

Hillary Clinton's first two months as a private citizen have been decidedly public.

Since leaving the State Department, Clinton has released a video to announce her support for gay marriage and signed a contract to write a new book about her years at Foggy Bottom that will lead to a book tour next year.

She’s established a transition office in downtown Washington and hailed Vice President Biden from the stage of the Kennedy Center. She has two more paid speeches coming up, in Texas and Colorado.

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She’s also watched as a new political action committee was formally launched to urge her to run for the White House in 2016. On Thursday, longtime Clinton confidante James Carville sent an email to supporters asking that they back the new PAC.

The last two months give a glimpse of what the next two years will be like for Clinton, who polls show is easily the favorite to succeed President Obama as the Democratic Party’s choice for president. Every move made by the former secretary of state and her closest advisers is closely observed for any clues it might give on her future plans.

Those closest to Clinton are tight-lipped about her plans.

Nick Merrill, a former aide from her time at State, who is currently acting as a press liaison for Clinton, declined to comment for this piece, as did Philippe Reines, a longtime spokesman and confidante for Clinton, who is also helping usher her into her next endeavors.

A half-dozen other former Clinton aides and donors also declined to comment on her political future, displaying the caution that has long been a characteristic of Team Hillary.

Those who did comment said they hoped Clinton would again try to become the first woman president even as they dismissed speculation.

“I think that all of this coverage is a bit silly,” said Patti Solis Doyle, who served as Clinton’s campaign manager during her last run for the White House before she was ousted in February 2008.

Steve Elmendorf, a surrogate and aide for Clinton’s 2008 bid, downplayed the significance of Clinton’s recent public activities.

“I think everybody is overreading it. I don’t think she’s decided, and nor should she, and I think she’s doing all the things you do when you leave an important government job and you’re going to write a book and give paid speeches,” he said.

He noted, too, that unlike many other 2016 presidential aspirants, Clinton doesn’t have to make a decision immediately because everything she needs — donors, an organization, active supporters — are already waiting and ready to go.

“If I'm Hillary Clinton, I don’t have a lot to do. She has more than enough potential staff; she’ll be able to raise more money than anyone who's ever run for president. None of the preparatory work that other people have to do, she has to do,” he said.

Case in point is the unaffiliated PAC. It is staffed by veterans of her 2008 campaign and has amassed an email list of supporters from which to collect donations.

Clinton-watchers are keeping an eye out for the issues she chooses to engage in.

This week’s comments on behalf of women’s and children’s rights signals little, they say, but more public statements on contentious issues that could fire up her base — such as the video on gay marriage — will be seen as hints about a White House run.

Clinton will have to decide what role to play in high-profile races in 2013 and 2014.

Her friend Terry McAuliffe is running for governor in Virginia, where any Democratic candidate will need help in 2016.

The hiring of more political, rather than administrative, staff would be a sure sign she is establishing the groundwork for a run.

Sally Bedell Smith, who authored a chronicle of the Clintons during President Clinton’s tenure as president, said if they have in fact decided to return to the White House, the Clintons are already preparing for it.

“I don't think it's ever too early when it comes to Bill and Hillary Clinton. They play a long game,” she said.