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Will she, won't she? Presidential question is answered in a quip

WILL she, won't she?

HIGH SPIRITS: Hillary Clinton.
HIGH SPIRITS: Hillary Clinton.

Hillary Rodham Clinton has kept America guessing ever since she lost the Democrat presidential candidacy to a little-known politician from Chicago, who swept to the White House back in January 2009.

And since she stepped down from being Barack Obama's Secretary of State in February, the media and the political class within and beyond the US have been watching eagerly for the merest tell-tale sign about whether the 65-year-old will seek to make history and become the first female president of the United States.

It was at a private gathering in Scotland that, when pressed, she gave the clearest indication yet she will run for the White House, telling her fellow guests she was "minded to do it".

Despite her public non-committal stance, campaigns are already up and running in America to support Mrs Clinton's, for now, non-existent candidacy.

Ready for Hillary is the best financed machine with support from former Obama campaigners and major Democrat fundraisers. By this summer, it had raised more than £1m and claims to have more than 20,000 donors.

Only this week, the billionaire investor George Soros signed up to co-chair the campaign and ensure, in terms of funds, Mrs Clinton would not be wanting.

Clinton supporters feel this might help ward off any potential rivals for the Democrat presidential candidacy. The most recent poll had the former New York senator almost 40% ahead of her nearest potential rival for her party's nomination, Vice- President Joe Biden.

Last month, in a magazine interview, Mrs Clinton declared: "I'm not in any hurry. It's a serious decision; not to be made lightly. But it's also not one that has to be made soon."

At present, she explained how she was enjoying blissful domesticity with her husband. "We have a great time. We laugh at our dogs. We watch stupid movies. We take long walks. We go for a swim."

Earlier this month, when asked the will you/won't you question, Mrs Clinton said she was not thinking about running for president, but was thinking about when she would think about it. And she told a group of Long Island supporters this would be "sometime next year".

Yet a few weeks ago on her first foreign foray since stepping down as Secretary of State, Mrs Clinton finally opened up. She arrived in Scotland to receive an honorary doctor of laws degree at St Andrews University, recognising her achievements as a politician and diplomat.

The former First Lady was in good spirits. As appropriate for the star of the show, she arrived a little late, but made a point of going round all the other 17 graduates to shake them by the hand and say what a privilege it was to be graduating in their company.

The cast-list was impressive and included Sir Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the worldwide web, Nobel laureate Professor Peter Higgs, and classicist and TV presenter Professor Mary Beard. But, it was at a small reception later that Mrs Clinton let slip her desire to follow Bill to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue and become America's 45th president.

The company was august. There were several people in the room, including First Minister Alex Salmond, former Liberal Democrat leader, Sir Menzies Campbell, who is Chancellor of St Andrews, and his colleague Michael Moore, who, at the time, was Scottish Secretary.

As Mrs Clinton talked politics, she was asked directly by one of the guests if she had decided to run for the presidency. She smiled and gave what was described as a neutral answer. The guest persisted. Again, Mrs Clinton politely gave a neutral answer. When pressed a third time, the ex-Secretary of State replied: "I haven't made up my mind yet."

This was humorously described as an unsatisfactory answer, to which Mrs Clinton replied: "Yes, it is unsatisfactory," and then added: "I'm minded to do it." Eyebrows rose, but the conversation moved swiftly on. Recently, one US commentator quipped that the former First Lady "is running; she just doesn't know it yet".

Apparently, she does.

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