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Janet Napolitano: A woman to watch for 2016

Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano. Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano.

So, what happens if Hillary Clinton doesn’t run in 2016?

It is hard to imagine the presidential field without a woman contender, and here’s one to keep your eye on: Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano. Napolitano is quietly making it known that she is considering the race, and there is reason to take her seriously.

Before coming to Washington, Napolitano was a highly regarded and very popular governor in Arizona, a state not known as a hospitable one for Democrats. In 2005, Time Magazine named her one of the nation’s five best governors, noting: “Positioning herself as a no-nonsense, pro-business centrist, she has worked outside party lines since coming to office in January 2003 to re-energize a state that, under her predecessors, was marked by recession and scandal.”

While in Arizona, she was criticized for not being aggressive enough in dealing with the influx of illegal immigrants. But her more recent job gives her an opportunity to change that image. This week, for instance, finds her on a high-profile tour of the southwest border, where she will highlight the stepped-up resources that the Obama administration has been devoting to reducing the flow of illegal entrants to this country.

Still, running for the White House from the cabinet is not an easy thing to do. Not since then-Commerce Secretary Herbert Hoover did it in 1928 has anyone successfully made the leap from the president’s cabinet to the Oval Office.

Her current job compounds that difficulty. The fact is, most Americans don’t hear all that much about the Homeland Security Department unless something has gone wrong.

Still, Napolitano is a sharp and savvy politician, and her decision to remain in the Obama administration for a second term is a telling one. Immigration overhaul may well be an opportunity to put herself at the forefront of an issue–and a constituency–that represent the future of the Democratic party. Particularly if Clinton doesn’t run, it’s a decent bet that she will be on the debate stage in 2016.

Read more from Washington Post Politics:

The Fix: Which Romney will run next?

Both sides of gun-control issue turn to women

GOP congressman: McCain’s Iran joke ‘racist’

 

Karen Tumulty is a national political correspondent for The Washington Post, where she received the 2013 Toner Prize for Excellence in Political Reporting.

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