RENEE MONTAGNE, host:
Senator Hillary Clinton is expected to announce this weekend that she's suspending - that's not quite ending - her campaign for the presidency. The Clinton campaign released a statement last night saying the senator would host an event Saturday in Washington, D.C., and that she will, quote, "thank her supporters and express her support for Senator Obama and party unity."
The campaign was deliberately careful with the language. They did not say Clinton would officially endorse Barack Obama, and one Clinton adviser says there are some qualifications. Clinton plans as of now to keep control of the delegates she won, and she wants to keep all her options open heading into the fall.
To explore what some of those options down the road might be, we turn to historian Doris Kearns Goodwin. Good morning.
Ms. DORIS KEARNS GOODWIN (Historian): Good morning to you. I'm glad to be with you.
MONTAGNE: Let's begin this conversation with the present. How hard is it for a candidate to suspend a campaign of this intensity?
Ms. GOODWIN: It is so much harder, I think, than many of us can realize. I mean, the exhaustion that a candidate has felt has been masked all along by the energy that comes from the crowds. And then once it's over, then I think the depression really sets in.
You know, President Ford said after he lost in 1976, he believed until the very last moment he was going to win. And he said he went into a state of depression; he had to go to Palm Springs for eight days. He couldn't bear granting interviews to the newspapers 'cause then they could ask him what went wrong, what could you have done differently?
So my guess is that for Hillary Clinton right now, once the campaign was over and there's no primaries left, that beginning realization of trying to question what happened is going to set in, and it's really, really hard.
MONTAGNE: There's been rampant speculation about whether or not Barack Obama would invite Hillary Clinton to be his running mate, and also questions about why she might want to be a second on the ticket.
Ms. GOODWIN: I have no doubt that for her becoming vice president is the absolute best choice for her. Think about how powerful the vice presidency is today compared to the old days. I mean, when Daniel Webster was asked about the thought of being vice president, he said I do not propose to be buried before I die. When Teddy Roosevelt was forced to take the vice presidency to help the party, he said he felt like he was taking the veil. And even Bush Sr., when he was asked what you do as vice president, talking about how many funerals he had to fly to, he said you die, I fly.
But today it is still such a powerful office. It would certainly avoid the decompression of losing this campaign. She would make history as the first woman vice president were he to win. And I think it would show the Democrats that she's willing to go the full way and help them in case they ever second-guessed whether she had campaigned fully enough, and were he not to win, she'd then be in the position to run for the presidency four years from now.
MONTAGNE: And if this all were to come to pass and Barack Obama were to win, would it be possible for her to run for president eight years from now?
Ms. GOODWIN: It certainly would be possible for her to run eight years from now. If she remained a loyal vice president, if she had substantial work to do, which I suspect she would do, and if she traveled around the world and got even more experience, eight years from now she'd be 69, 68 years old. And since McCain is older than that in running for president, I think the age barrier might have well have been broken.
And she certainly seems to have plenty of energy left, and my guess would have - that she'd still have it eight years from now.
MONTAGNE: Turning to other possible futures for Hillary Clinton, you have cited Senator Ted Kennedy's career as a model for what she could accomplish in the Senate. She's a junior senator, though, from her state and somewhat older than he was after he lost his presidential campaign in 1980. Would she both want and could she get a leadership role?
Ms. GOODWIN: I think the problem for Hillary Clinton in emulating what Teddy Kennedy did is that, number one, he was much younger than she; number two, he had so much more seniority before he went back to the Senate - 18 years when he went back in 1980; and number three, as he himself has said, he really loved the Senate before he left it, and when he came back he really felt this was where he belonged.
And so he had committee chairmanships, he had the chance to become the legislator that probably will make him more remembered even than some minor presidents have been. If Hillary goes back to the Senate, the math is going to trip her up there, just as it did in the nomination, because she is, I believe, something like 36th senator out of 49. It's many years, maybe eight years, away from her becoming a committee chairman.
And I think it'll be hard too to be back there amidst some of the senators, the majority of whom voted - or more went for Obama rather than for her, and those feelings are going to be pretty hard. She did well in the Senate in those years before she started running for the presidency, went across bipartisan lines, made a lot of friends and was able to make some small accomplishments. So it will become a home again, but I think it'll be a difficult challenge for her to find the same sense of fulfillment that she was certainly hoping to find in the presidency or even the vice presidency.
MONTAGNE: Now, one bit of speculation is that she could run for governor of New York.
Ms. GOODWIN: There's no question, I think, that if she were to have a chance to run for governor of New York, it would also be a great springboard for the presidency. I mean, it's an executive power, it would be exciting for her, I think she could probably do a very good job at that, 'cause it's very policy oriented. Maybe she could bring some peace between the warring people in the Senate and the assembly up there.
The problem would be that if Mr. Patterson does not resign, then she's talking about 2010, I believe.
MONTAGNE: And that being Governor David Patterson.
Ms. GOODWIN: Yes. And if he were to decide to run again, I think it would be hard for her to contest a fellow Democrat who's been a supporter and who is an African-American. I think yet once again to be in a battle against an African-American, that would be a tough thing for her to do.
MONTAGNE: It sounds as if, from what you've been saying, that you think that Hillary Clinton, regardless of where she heads in the future, would always have her eye on the presidency.
Ms. GOODWIN: I do think that it's going to be hard for her to erase that desire for the presidency. Not only because she's come so close to the nomination this time, but because she's lived in the White House. It's hard for any president to leave the White House. I think they all go through a period of sadness because it's such an extraordinary experience to be in a position where you can make such a difference in people's lives and to live in that incredible place.
And having lived in it for eight years and now almost having it in her own right, I don't think she will be able to erase that desire. So my guess is that whatever she ends up doing, there will still be that thought that hopefully she can gain more experience, have a bigger platform and come back and try it again.
MONTAGNE: Thank you very much for talking with us.
Ms. GOODWIN: Oh, you're very welcome. I was glad to do so.
MONTAGNE: Doris Kearns Goodwin is a historian and also the author most recently of "Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln."
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