Those close to Hillary Clinton are starting to openly speculate that the secretary of state will run for president again in 2016.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton listens as Sherif Mansour, right, senior program officer for Freedom House's Middle East North Africa programs, speaks about Egypt during the first "Strategic Dialogue with Civil Society" at the State Department in February. (Brendan Smialowski/Getty Images)

The question is whether this amounts to wishful thinking on behalf of Hillary backers still unsatisfied by (or bitter about) 2008, or an indication that she is actually considering another run for president.

Clinton herself has shunned talk of another bid. She has said she won’t serve another term as secretary of state if President Obama is reelected and suggested that the first female president won’t be her.

“I would like to come back to India and just wander around without the streets being closed,” she said during a speech in India last month. “I just want to get back to taking some deep breaths, feeling that there are other ways I can continue to serve.”

Pelosi and Rendell have been the strongest in their advocacy. Both said in reports this weekend that they expect that Clinton will dust off her campaign for another go at it four years from now, when the secretary of state will turn 69 just days before Election Day.

“She’s our shot,” Pelosi told the San Francisco Chronicle. “Why wouldn’t she run? She’s a magnificent secretary of state.”

Added close Clinton confidante Rendell in his new book: “She is bone-tired. ... Still I believe that when she gets some rest and has a chance to reflect on what she wants, the challenges facing the country will be too great for her to resist and she will change her mind.”

And Bill Clinton himself seems to be pretty clearly pining for his wife to give it another shot, too. (NOBODY loves the game like Bubba.)

“She’s told you and everybody else that she thinks she’ll probably never run for office again,” he said. “But I’ve been there; I know what happens when you go through this decompression after years of relentless high-pressure activity. And I just think she needs to rest up, do some things she cares about, and whatever she decides to do, I’ll support.”

Regardless of Hillary Clinton’s own deliberations, the fact that three such high-profile people seem to want her to run for president four years from now is significant. After all, if everybody around you is pressuring you to do something, it becomes much harder to resist.

And another presidential campaign makes a lot of sense for Clinton.

Though she would be one of the oldest major party nominees in history (assuming she won the Democratic nod), there has really never been a better time for her to run.

She’s basically the most popular female public figure — if not public figure, period — in the country, with about two-thirds of Americans viewing her favorably (comparable to Michelle Obama). And she’s got the kind of résumé most presidential candidates would kill for, as a former first lady, senator from New York and successful secretary of state looking to become the first female president.

The recent “Texts from Hillary” Tumblr feed casting Clinton as a no-nonsense badass (for lack of a better term) on the international stage is actually a pretty clear picture of her image these days.

She’s also got one campaign under her belt, which can prove immensely helpful the second time out — though it’s more frequent that repeat candidates win on the Republican side than the Democratic side.

Most top former Clinton aides stress that it is far too premature to be talking about such things, especially with the 2012 election ramping up, but even they acknowledge that it’s on the table.

“No one knows — least of all Hillary — if she will run,” said a top 2008 aide granted anonymity to speak candidly. “When the time comes, she will think about it, obviously. Why anyone would bring it up now? People just can’t resist trying to be the first with the answer.”

The political parlor games aside — and this is certainly a parlor game of the highest magnitude — there’s little doubt that those close to Clinton think she’ll at least consider another campaign.

And that’s something.