As Hillary Clinton stumps for Democrats, 2016 looms large

Hillary Clinton hit the campaign trail Wednesday in support of a Democratic Senate hopeful, but she sounded every inch like the prospective frontrunner for the 2016 presidential race.

Washington: Hillary Clinton hit the campaign trail Wednesday in support of a Democratic Senate hopeful, but she sounded every inch like the prospective frontrunner for the 2016 presidential race.

The former secretary of state was in Kentucky lending her political star power to Alison Lundergan Grimes, who has mounted an underdog challenge to unseat five-term Senator Mitch McConnell, the chamber`s top Republican.

The race, in which polls show McConnell with a slim lead, has garnered national attention for possibly playing a role in Republican efforts to take back the Senate.

And while Clinton made no mention of her potential White House dreams, her passionate speech recalled how she very nearly became the first Democratic presidential nominee.

"You know, in 2008 so many people opened their hearts and their homes to me," she reminded a throng of Grimes supporters in Louisville.

"Let`s put another crack in that glass ceiling and elect this incredible young woman to the United States Senate."

The event follows several political appearances by Clinton in recent weeks, including one with Colorado`s embattled Senator Mark Udall and a stop in Pennsylvania supporting the Democratic gubernatorial nominee.

But Wednesday`s speech may have been the most political of all for Clinton, who touched on several themes -- improving opportunities for the middle class, bettering education, raising the minimum wage, and especially boosting women`s rights -- which could lay groundwork for a presidential campaign should she choose to run.

"It`s just unbelievable that in this day and time someone would be telling the women of Kentucky they don`t deserve equal pay for equal work," Clinton boomed, referring to McConnell.

"Whether you`re a woman or a man, this is a family issue, this is a fairness issue, this is an economic issue."At a San Francisco conference Tuesday, Clinton delivered a teaser about her ambitions. Asked about her political future, she demurred to the audience: "I don`t want to make any news today."

And while Clinton did not overtly address the presidency Wednesday, that did not stop the state`s Democratic Governor Steve Beshear from doing so.

He noted, to a loud roar, that many Kentuckians believe Clinton "needs to be and will be the next president of the United States."

Clinton, a former first lady, was a US senator for eight years, and it is no secret she is considering another presidential run after losing the Democratic nomination in 2008 to eventual White House occupant Barack Obama.

While she has stressed she will not announce her decision for months, several appearances ahead of the November 4 mid-terms has raised speculation that a Clinton campaign is coalescing.

In September, she returned to the presidential proving ground of Iowa, where she lost 2008`s first-in-the-nation Democratic caucus, and proclaimed: "Hello Iowa -- I`m ba-ack!"

Clinton has reliably outpaced potential Republican and Democratic rivals in polls this year.

But last weekend the Des Moines Register released survey results upsetting that conventional wisdom: among likely Iowa voters, given a choice between Clinton and 2012 Republican nominee Mitt Romney, respondents chose Romney by 44 percent to 43 percent.

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