Speculation about Clinton run includes questions about daughter Chelsea's role, political future

FILE: May 29, 2013: Chelsea Clinton at the National Center for HIV/AIDS, Dermatology and STDs in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

FILE: May 29, 2013: Chelsea Clinton at the National Center for HIV/AIDS, Dermatology and STDs in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.  (REUTERS)

Amid speculation that Hillary Clinton will mount another run for president, there appears to be even less doubt that daughter Chelsea would play a far more prominent role than she did in her mother’s 2008 bid.

The former first daughter clearly has increased her public profile since that race. She has quit full-time, private-sector work and assumed more responsibilities in the family’s foundation -- a staging ground for a likely 2016 Clinton presidential campaign.

Yet the larger, emerging questions are whether the 33-year-old Clinton is ready for a bigger campaign role or a campaign of her own someday.

Clinton is indeed better prepared this time, having one presidential race, Wall Street experience and a side-gig as an NBC-TV special correspondent under her belt. However, Clinton’s ability to move among those worlds has also raised questions about her professional commitment and whether her last name carries more clout than her qualifications.

“She doesn’t have the charisma,” Tim Graham, a director at the conservative-lean Media Research Center, told “That doesn’t means she’s not smart. She just doesn’t have that soaring, transcendent oratory.”

The younger Clinton struggled at times as a family surrogate during the 2008 race. Though she was a grown woman, seasoned reporters were denied access to her. She once even told a child reporter:  “I’m sorry, I don’t talk to the press and that applies to you, unfortunately, even though I think you’re cute.”

Though dispatched to college campuses, the effort had limited impact, as the youth vote helped catapult Barack Obama to victory. Though Obama won nearly 70 percent of that vote, Clinton supporters argue Chelsea helped cut into Obama’s percentages and that Hillary improved among younger votes as the campaign progresses, essentially matching Obama in California and Massachusetts.

The younger Clinton estimates making roughly 400 campaign stops, include at least 100 college-campus visits over five months, after being on the sidelines for essentially the first year of the campaign.

However, that role this time could be even more challenging, in part, with Hillary Clinton turning 66 in October.

And Chelsea might not get a pass from the press. Graham said Chelsea Clinton became fair game for reporters the day she took the NBC job and that she has always been used to soften her parents’ sharper edges -- despite their attempts to appear to do otherwise.

With an increased role would almost certainly come the responsibility of taking questions from reporters and otherwise moving even further beyond her fiercely protected earlier life, which included Secret Service agents in her Stanford University dormitory and a 1993 New York Times letter to the editor from Margaret Truman telling the press that too much Chelsea coverage could be damaging.

Whether she stumps for her mother or pursues some higher calling, Chelsea inevitably faces a thorny mess of previously off-limit questions that could range from the infamous Monica sex scandal to her ambitions to continue the Clinton political dynasty to an uneven professional resume that bounces between Wall Street, academia, journalism and philanthropy.

“You at least have to admire her resilience and desire to remain in the political process,” a Democratic strategist told “She has lived through the worst of politics and clearly evolved. The bigger question might be whether Hillary Clinton has learned from her mistakes in 2008.”

Chelsea has recently suggested she is keeping her options open about running for elected office. 

"Not now," she told CNN this month. "I'm ... grateful to live in a city and state and a country where I really believe in my elected officials, and their ethos and their competencies. Someday, if either of those weren't true and I thought I could make more of a difference in the public sector ... I'd have to ask and answer that question."

The Clinton Foundation did not respond to a request for comment.

Chelsea’s first job after graduate school at University College, Oxford, was in 2003 at the consulting firm McKinsey & Co. in New York City.

“Partly, I had no idea what I wanted to do at that time,” she said last year, according to an interview taped by Bloomberg News. “I felt there were people there I could learn a lot from.”

Three years later, she joined the Wall Street firm Avenue Capital Group, a hedge fund cofounded by Marc Lasry, who has given more than $600,000 to mostly Democratic candidates since 1995, including $11,500 to Hillary Clinton’s successful 2000 bid to win a New York Senate seat, according to the website

The firm declined to reveal Chelsea’s job, citing company policy. But last year, she said she joined Avenue Capital to learn about the business of making money and identified her boss as Matthew Kimble, listed on the company website as a portfolio manager.

“I didn’t want to grow up to be my boss,” Clinton said. “After a few years, I just thought I had to go figure out what I do want to do.”

She also revealed in a 2011 interview with Time Magazine that she left Advance Capital without advance notice after her mother won the 2008 New Hampshire primary.

“I called my boss and I was like, ‘I’m really sorry. I think I need to quit my job because I don’t know how long I’m going to be gone,” Clinton recalled saying.

Yet her job at NBC has drawn the most criticism, largely because she had no real journalism experience and turned in some less-than-spectacular performances.

“This one-dimensional, under-reported, naive celebration of a charter school in Rhode Island was just as much of an empty-headed puff job as Clinton's first report on an after-school program in Little Rock,” David Zurawik, a media critic for the liberal-leaning Baltimore Sun, wrote last year, after Clinton’s second on-air report.

Still, NBC renewed Clinton’s contract this year, as she begins to “play a significant role in shaping the foundation’s future,” according to a New York Times story this month about the financial challenges facing the newly renamed Bill, Hillary & Chelsea Clinton Foundation.

Clinton also has begun to  “assert herself as a force” within the organization, according to The Times story, which suggested her motivation has in part been to save the foundation she stands to inherit.

Meanwhile, Clinton will keep her board positions at the Clinton Health Access Initiative, the School of American Ballet, Common Sense Media, and the Weill Cornell Medical College and remains active in Of Many Institute at NYU, according to the foundation.

She also continues to work on her doctoral thesis at Oxford and teach part-time at Columbia University from which she received a master’s in public health in 2010. 

If Clinton has found her mark, it appears to be at the foundation and its related works.

During a recent trip to Nigeria, she spoke passionately about her effort to curb the preventable deaths of 1 million women and children annually in that country.

"I couldn't imagine not doing work like this," she told Reuters. “I define success in my life by how much of a difference have I made in a given day, whether that is being a good wife to my husband, a good daughter to my parents, a good friend to my friends, or helping push forward our work at CHAI or the Alliance for a Healthier Generation or any other facet of the foundation."