Clinton speech likely to stir thoughts of Hillary

Associated Press
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton speaks during her joint conference with Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China, Wednesday, Sept. 5, 2012. Talks between Clinton and Chinese leaders Wednesday failed to narrow gaps on how to end the crisis in Syria and how to resolve Beijing's territorial disputes with its smaller neighbors over the South China Sea. (AP Photo/Feng Li, Pool)

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — While former President Bill Clinton is the star of the Democratic convention Wednesday night, the evening's most talked-about celebrity might be the Clinton conspicuously absent from the stage: Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Hillary Clinton is legally barred from political activity while serving as President Barack Obama's secretary of state, a post that has taken her to Asia for a mission Wednesday in East Timor. Her tenure as the nation's chief diplomat has only increased her stature among the Democratic Party faithful, many of whom are already clamoring for her to seek the presidency in 2016.

Bill Clinton's convention speech is expected to be an enthusiastic plug for Obama and the economic policies he has pursued as president — and stir nostalgia for the former president and first lady.

Completing the Clinton tableau in Charlotte is the couple's daughter, Chelsea, a special correspondent for NBC News who hosted a panel Wednesday on young people and political engagement.

Hillary Clinton famously battled Obama for the Democratic nomination in 2008 and has said she has no interest in running again. She's also said she plans to step down as secretary of state at the end of Obama's current term even if he wins a second four years in the White House.

But Clinton's popularity has soared since her bruising campaign against Obama, and she would begin the 2016 nomination contest as a heavy favorite if she were to pursue it.

Clinton adviser Paul Begala says Bill Clinton's speech should be viewed as an endorsement of Obama and not a preview for another Hillary Clinton candidacy.

"The 2016 election is so very far away, it would be impossible to figure out any angle," Begala said. "Every Democrat wants President Obama to win."