Two decades after Clinton became the first lady, signs of her popularity — and her political strength — are ubiquitous.
Obama had barely declared victory in November when Democrats started zealously plugging Clinton as their strongest White House contender four years from now, should she choose to take that leap.
"Wouldn't that be exciting," House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi declared in December. "I hope she goes — why wouldn't she?"
Even Republicans concede that were she to run, Clinton would be a force to be reckoned with.
"Trying to win that will be truly the Super Bowl," former House Speaker and 2012 GOP presidential candidate Newt Gingrich said in December. "The Republican Party today is incapable of competing at that level."
Americans admire Clinton more than any other woman in the world, according to a Gallup poll released Monday — the 17th time in 20 years that Clinton has claimed that title. And a recent ABC News/Washington Post poll found that 57 percent of Americans would support Clinton as a candidate for president in 2016, with just 37 percent opposed. Meanwhile, websites have already cropped up hawking "Clinton 2016" mugs and tote bags.
Clinton returned to the U.S. from a trip to Europe, then fell ill with a stomach virus in early December that left her severely dehydrated and forced her to cancel a trip to North Africa and the Middle East. Until then, she had cancelled only two scheduled overseas trips, one to Europe after breaking her elbow in June 2009 and one to Asia after the February 2010 earthquake in Haiti.
Her condition worsened when she fainted, fell and suffered a concussion while at home alone in mid-December as she recovered from the virus. It was announced on Dec. 13.
This isn't the first time Clinton has suffered a blood clot. In 1998, midway through her husband's second term as president, Clinton was in New York fundraising for the midterm elections when a swollen right foot led her doctor to diagnose a clot in her knee requiring immediate treatment.
Beyond talk of future politics, Clinton's three-week absence from the State Department has raised eyebrows among some conservative commentators who questioned the seriousness of Clinton's ailment after she cancelled planned Dec. 20 testimony before Congress on the deadly attack on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya.
Clinton had been due to discuss with lawmakers a scathing report on the attack she had commissioned that found serious failures of leadership and management in two State Department bureaus were to blame for insufficient security at the facility. Clinton took responsibility for the incident before the report was released, but she was not blamed. Four officials cited in the report have either resigned or been reassigned.
Associated Press writer Ken Thomas in Washington and AP Chief Medical Writer Marilynn Marchione in Milwaukee contributed to this report.
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