The longer she waits, the longer she can hold off the rigors of campaigning.

Coy Hillary Tells It Like It Isn't

Jonathan Bernstein is a Bloomberg View columnist. He taught political science at the University of Texas at San Antonio and DePauw University and wrote A Plain Blog About Politics.
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Hillary Clinton's public pretense about her presidential campaign took another step forward today. Here's how Bloomberg News relayed it:

Sept. 5 (Bloomberg) -- Hillary Clinton said she'll decide "after the first of the year" whether to run again for the presidency of the U.S.

"I have a very clear vision with an agenda of what I think needs to be done," Clinton, 66, said today at an event in Mexico City. "Obviously I'm thinking about it, but I have not made a decision yet."

Here's how I would write the story:

Hillary Clinton, who has been running for president at least since she finished her service at the State Department after the 2012 election, continues to try to freeze the competition. Her latest gambit? Announcing that she won't decide whether to drop out of the contest for a few more months.

"I am going to be making a decision, Clinton said at an event in Mexico City, "probably after the first of the year about whether I'm going to run again or not."

The legal requirements and norms of presidential elections generally encourage candidates to begin very early - sometimes even before the previous election has ended - but to defer on public declarations until much later. None of the dozen or so Republican candidates traipsing around Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina have declared their candidacies either, and most of them are publicly coy about why they happen to be spending time in those early primary and caucus states.

Clinton, who appears to have opened up a huge lead in the nomination contest, has even more reason to stay silent about her plans because it's generally believed that a process in which overt campaigning starts later would be an advantage for such a strong front-runner. Not to mention that delay would allow Clinton to limit some of the more grueling parts of the campaign.

While it remains possible that Clinton, who ran unsuccessfully for the Democratic nomination in 2008 against then-Senator Barack Obama, will exit the contest she has dominated, she has so far done everything that a candidate in her position might be expected to do, and Democrats who normally actively participate in the nomination process are treating her as a candidate.

So, Clinton is saying that she's going to make a decision in January. Fine; every candidate, at every stage of the campaign, is constantly deciding whether to continue or drop out. Nominations are decided by attrition, and the last candidate standing wins.

For now, Clinton (and Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, Rand Paul and others on the Republican side) are running for 2016; we can't know whether they'll be running in 2016, and odds are they can't either. I understand the reasons for this charade of not deciding yet. But I see no reason the rest of us should play along.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Bloomberg View's editorial board or Bloomberg LP, its owners and investors.

To contact the author on this story:
Jonathan Bernstein at jbernstein62@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor on this story:
Max Berley at mberley@bloomberg.net