THE BLOG
02/23/2008 10:35 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Hillary Clinton's Future: Senate Majority Leader?

Hillary Clinton Senate.jpg

At 9:56 pm Thursday night, Clinton Campaign spokesman Howard Wolfson sent out this statement about Hillary's concluding, cheer-generating comments at the UT Austin debate:

What we saw in the final moments in that debate is why Hillary Clinton is the next President of the United States. Her strength, her life experience, her compassion. She's tested and ready. It was the moment she retook the reins of this race and showed women and men why she is the best choice.

Sitting with other senior stakeholders in Hillaryland, I heard Hillary essentially concede to Obama -- and in a magnanimous, gracious way. Many with me that night agreed.

I happen to think that Barack Obama should offer Hillary the Vice President slot. His "win" that seems to be in the making is impressive -- but not definitive, and there are substantial parts of the Democratic party that are still clinging to the Clinton franchise.

If Obama can acquire the Clinton infrastructure and consolidate it with the Kennedy franchise and then fasten in the many newcomers to his "movement", he'd then be creating something quite new and different -- and sustainable.

Some of Obama's supporters can't imagine a ticket with both of them on it -- but the reality of American politics is that power is built through amassing building blocks of influence. The Kennedy franchise is second only to the Clinton's in its structural resilience. Obama was given the keys to the many thousands who owe the Kennedy machine for the jobs, favors, policy work, and the like that the Kennedys have disbursed over decades.

With all due respect to the currents that are fueling Obama's primary victory, his supporters are not part of a well-organized franchise and their engagement and involvement may only seem deep but are really just a function the moment. As Howard Fineman wrote recently, Hillary Clinton is running against Obama's "wind". Sounds good in one sense -- but in another, winds die down.

Obama would be a fool to not jump at the opportunity to build-in the Clinton's followers into his political superstructure.

But even if Hillary Clinton is not offered the Vice Presidential slot, she will be a major force in American politics -- and rumors are afoot that "her friends" are paving the way for her to ascend to Senate Majority Leader. Some tried to engineer this before her decision to run. Now they are at it again.

And to some degree, I am hearing from senior Democrats that this move would be welcomed by most in the party -- by just about everyone except the John Bolton-hugging Chuck Schumer, who wants the Majority Leader position himself. But in a contest, Clinton would beat Schumer.

Durbin also wants the job and is close to Barack Obama, but Obama needs Clinton's support and cooperation if he takes the nomination and eventually the White House -- and that can only happen if he puts her on his ticket as VP or helps engineer her move to Senate Majority Leader.

For those who think that there may yet be a surprise in Ohio and Texas and that Hillary's moving final comments in the debates will pull off another New Hampsire-like outcome, all I can say is that I have learned that a senior Clinton campaign adviser -- not on the political side -- is already out looking for a job.

-- Steve Clemons publishes the popular political blog, The Washington Note