Hillary Clinton will at some point announce her decision about whether or not to run for president in 2016. That decision -- after careful deliberation spanning a period of several minutes -- will be that she has decided to run. And if history is any guide, that announcement will happen in about 99 days.
Our math comes after the Times reported Monday morning that Democratic losses in the midterms could spur an earlier Clinton entry into the race -- perhaps even before the end of the year. A quick review of presidential announcements (and announcements of exploratory committees) suggests that such an early entry is unlikely.
Since 1988, there have been five announcements that took place in the same year as midterms: Howard Dean in 2004, Bill Bradley in 2000, John Kerry in 2004, John McCain in 2000, and John Edwards in 2008. Al Gore formed his exploratory committee for the 2000 race on January 1, 1999, just missing the cut. Leaving out Dean's very, very early announcement to form an exploratory committee, those candidates announced about 687 days prior to the election, on average. If Clinton announces next January 20, that's 658 days before the 2016 elections.
Excluding incumbents, there have been four announcements since 1988 that resulted in victories: Bush in 1988, a different Bush in 2000, Obama in 2008, and Clinton in 1992. The first three of those candidates announced within a short span of one another, 626 days before the election, on average.
Clinton, though, didn't announce the formation of an exploratory committee until relatively late in the 1992 cycle, about 446 days before the election.
Only a few candidates have that ended up doing reasonably well have announced later than that. In 1992 and 1996, Ross Perot announced his independent bids (or some form thereof) on Larry King's show on CNN well into the election year itself. And in 1987, Pat Robertson announced that he would run for president in a speech in front of a brownstone in Brooklyn. He was introduced by former NFL star Rosie Grier, who called him "Pat Robinson."
At its core, the timing of the presidential announcement doesn't really make much difference. Clinton is running, has been running for months, and even has the benefit of a campaign infrastructure in the form of groups like Ready for Hillary, Correct the Record and others. It seems unlikely that an expected loss of the Senate would force Clinton to substantially revamp a planning process that's been months (years?) in the making. So we're putting the over/under at 99 days. And the odds of a decision to run at 99.99 percent.