Hillary Clinton Reemerges Amid 2016 Rumors

Clinton's speech at the Kennedy Center proves she can't do anything outside the framework of her potential presidential candidacy.

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Win McNamee / Getty Images

Defense Department Holds Ceremony To Honor Hillary Clinton on February 14, 2013 in Arlington, Va.

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says she’s undecided on running for president, but as she made her first public appearance since stepping down as Secretary of State the prospect of her candidacy hung just outside the door — literally.

Nearly 50 early supporters gathered across from the Kennedy Center opera house before an event honoring women leaders from around the world. The Clinton backers held signs bearing the slogan “I’m ready for Hillary” and chanting “Hillary 2016!” Cars honked in support as they passed before the event. The rally was organized by the new super PAC, Ready for Hillary, an independent group which launched this week to mobilize a grassroots supporter network for Clinton should she decide to run.

The next election is 42 months away and already Clinton can’t do anything outside the framework of her potential candidacy. Just two weeks ago Clinton backed gay marriage in a video released by the Human Rights Council, after opposing it through her 2008 campaign. The result has been a spate of “will she or won’t she” stories in the national press, as supporters stand ready at the sidelines, potential rivals look on in wonder, and aides repeatedly assert she hasn’t made up her mind.

In the packed Kennedy Center, Clinton’s political future was the talk of the event in the hallways before and the curbside after. Clinton is hitting the paid speaking circuit, beginning later this month with a speech to the National Multi Housing Council in Dallas. She will address theWomen in the World Summit on Friday in New York City.

Last night Clinton was mum on her future as she delivered her first remarks since quitting the State Department in February. But in as much as it was a celebration of inspiring female leaders, the event was also something of a tribute to Clinton — who founded the organization in 1997.

“Hillary Clinton changed the rules — she threw them all out completely. She redefined expectations for women, not only in America, but all over the world,” said designer Diane von Fürstenberg in her introduction of Clinton. Vice President Joe Biden, who delivered the keynote address, proclaimed, “There’s no woman like Hillary Clinton.” Biden is also thought to be eyeing a run in 2016.

As she took the stage Clinton was greeted by a rousing half-minute standing ovation, noting the event bringing together longtime advocates and donors was “a little bit like a family reunion.” To another round of applause she delivered the line that brought her effort to international prominence in 1995: “human rights are women’s rights and women’s rights are human rights.”

Outside, the unsanctioned super PAC was hard at work. The group has signed on Matt Felan, Clinton’s deputy national finance director in her 2008 race and is recruiting a regional finance team.

“The attacks are coming,” said Seth Bringman, the group’s communications director. “We’re going to defend her while she’s taking a break from politics and plan for her campaign.”

“Even if she doesn’t want it, we believe she’s going to be convinced to do it,” he added.

Bringman said some of Clinton’s top 2008 bundlers have already signed on with the group, but declined to name them or reveal how much has already been raised. (He said the group hopes to raise in the seven-figures.)