At the Clinton Global Initiative in Chicago, an interviewer asked Bill Clinton, "Before I let you go, any chance that we might see another Clinton in the White House?" The audience chuckled and the former president got an impish look on his face.
"Chelsea's still too young," he grinned.
It's no joke, though, that the Clintons are a powerhouse couple. Separately, Bill and Hillary are each worth millions of dollars; together, they have a joint foundation, which they can use to promote public policy initiatives if they choose. Right now, Hillary Clinton is far and away the leading presidential candidate for 2016 -- so much so that it's assumed the Democratic Party convention will be a coronation.
Even the Washington Examiner, the uber-conservative Washington tabloid, inaugurated its weekly magazine by capitalizing on Clinton's popularity. Editors graced its front cover with a picture of a formidable, presidential-looking Clinton and indulged in a puff-piece fantasy, asking, "What if she doesn't run?"
Former senator and Republican presidential candidate Elizabeth Dole told "CBS This Morning," "We can recognize that we're past the point of a woman being accepted as president because (Hillary) almost made it last time, and also just to think she could be a front-runner -- a few years ago, that wouldn't have been something that would have been conceivable."
When asked to speculate about 2016 and her own party's potential candidates, Dole replied, "You know, it's very early right now. It seems like we just finished the last one."
Dole is so right. President Obama's second inaugural was a little more than five months ago. Yet no one will shut up about 2016.
The Republican Party establishment has wasted no time attempting to weaken Clinton. It's a given these days that the earlier one can smear the opposition's front-runner, the better. Although Republican Rep. Darrell Issa, chairman of the House Oversight Committee investigating Benghazi, denied Clinton was "a target," a lot of political potshots were aimed at her. They missed.
After the Clinton Global Initiative event, The New York Times noted that "Mrs. Clinton appeared alongside her husband, Bill Clinton, in a crowded ballroom (in Chicago) and left little doubt that she planned to reclaim the political stage she exited more than four years ago to become the nation's top diplomat."
It seems Clinton can't even have a lunch with an old political friend without it becoming press fodder about a 2016 run. The Boston Globe website said Clinton made a "quick, low-profile visit" to Boston and had a "discreet dinner," with retiring Boston Mayor Thomas Menino.
Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri successfully competed with news of the G-8 conference, immigration reform and the defeat of the farm bill just by saying, "Hillary Clinton called me." McCaskill is the first heavyweight politician to endorse Clinton for 2016. She teased reporters, refusing to divulge details of the call, adding, "I think she has a big decision to make, and I think she's in the process of making it."
Back in May, possible first-husband Bill Clinton commented on speculation of Hillary running, saying, "I don't know what's going to happen, but I know this: that is the worst expenditure of our time." Maybe so, but he helped fuel it by inviting the man who is the front-runner for the Republican nomination, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, to the Clinton's Global Initiative in Chicago. The invite showcased Hillary's confidence and placed her in a bipartisan framework.
Even when she launched her long-championed cause of helping children, it was dissected for evidence of Clinton being the 2016 Democratic nominee for president. The Daily Beast ran an article by Mark McKinnon, a Republican who worked on George W. Bush's 2004 campaign, titled, "Why I'm working with Hillary Clinton now."
Wrote McKinnon: "Folks on my side of the aisle will say it is heresy to be working with Hillary Clinton. Fortunately, at this stage of my life, I don't care." McKinnon is partnering with Clinton on her work with children through The Next Generation, a foundation interested in the same issues.
Long before she was first lady, Clinton worked with the Children's Defense Fund. Her new initiative, Too Small to Fail, will fund scientific research on early childhood intervention, focusing on behavioral changes. The goal, of course, is large-scale: to give all children of the next generation a chance to succeed.
It is awfully early to be taking about an event three and a half years away when so much can happen in the upcoming 2014 midterms. Bill Clinton concluded his answer about another Clinton in the White House by saying, "I don't know what Hillary's going to do, but whatever it is, I expect to support it."
Maybe we also should simply support Hillary's fine initiative. Or even follow it, by focusing less on idle speculation and more on helping the next generation get a firm foundation during early childhood. And we can give Clinton a breather to think about 2016.
Donna Brazile is a senior Democratic strategist, a political commentator and contributor to CNN and ABC News, and a contributing columnist to Ms. Magazine and O, the Oprah Magazine.