LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — “We need Hillary in the White House in 2016 or on the ticket in 2012,” an elderly man told Bill Clinton at a recent book signing here. The former president smiled, signed a copy of “Back to Work: Why We Need Smart Government for a Strong Economy,’’ and assured the man he’d let his wife know: “I’ll pass that along to Hillary.”

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton speaks during a press conference in Yangon, Myanmar. (AP Photo/Saul Loeb, Pool (Saul Loeb/AP)

After all, it’s no secret Hillary is tired of logging miles as the 67th Secretary of State. She racked up 237,597 miles – as of Dec. 8, the latest date for totals – while visiting 45 countries and logging 506 hours of travel time in 2011. She has already said she doesn’t want a second term as Secretary of State.

When asked about her plans, the former president said, “She’s tired and she wants to come home” and “do the kind of work that I’m doing now.” But, he added, “It’s up to her to come and know what she intends to do.”

So, does that mean anything in particular about the former senator’s future plans? Robert Reich, former Secretary of Labor in the Clinton Administration, predicted in “Business Insider” last week that Obama will pick Hillary as vice president in a switcheroo that makes Biden secretary of state – “a position he’s apparently coveted for years,” Reich said. He said his prediction was not, however, based on any insider information.

Past coverage: Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said in November that she has no plans to run for president again.

This was manna for those Hillary supporters who have never abandoned hope that the former first lady might still become the nation’s first female president. There’s currently a “Petition to Draft Hillary Clinton for President in 2012” Facebook page. One website, “Hillary Unleashed,” is urging New Hampshire voters to write-in Hillary’s name on Jan. 10.

And even as her most adamant supporters long for a never-gonna-happen run against Obama, they’d happily support an Obama-Clinton ticket — and argue that she’d energize a sagging, depressed Democratic base – women, environmentalists and unions.

By picking Hillary as vice president, Obama would get Bill Clinton, too. This was not always considered such a plus; in 2008, the former president often lashed out at the media and occasionally made inappropriate comments about Obama. Those days seemed long gone, though, as Clinton discussed a recent visit with Obama about retrofitting buildings to put Americans back to work.

The 42nd president, the party’s number one cheerleader, still pulls in big bucks for Democrats. At the Little Rock book signing, hundreds of his fellow Arkansans stood in line to meet the former president.

“Wish you were still up there,” one fan after another lamented.

Hillary has been a first lady, a New York senator and Secretary of State. Will she soon complete the political resume building? Doubtful. Don’t expect her to vanish just yet either, though; her supporters won’t let her.

Suzi Parker is an Arkansas-based political and cultural journalist and author of “Sex in the South: Unbuckling the Bible Belt.” Follow her on Twitter at @SuziParker

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