Americans consider Hillary Clinton’s gender, more than her actual experience, as the most positive thing about having her in the Oval Office come 2016, a Gallup poll has found.

Eighteen percent of survey respondents cited Clinton being the first female president as the top reason to elect her. Half as many named her experience. On the flip side, only 4 percent answered “don’t want a woman president” as the biggest negative of a Hillary Clinton presidency. …

Democrats were overwhelmingly more enthusiastic about her becoming the nation’s first female president. Thirty percent — compared to 17 and 11 percent of independents and Republicans, respectively — cited this as the foremost positive.

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While the GOP is more divided than usual this cycle, Democrats are more united. Hillary Clinton has 67 percent in the polls, more than the top five Republicans’ average support combined. Clinton is polling stronger than any contender in the modern era on either side, including incumbent presidents George H.W. Bush in 1992 and Jimmy Carter in 1980. For non-incumbents, Ronald Reagan in 1980 and Al Gore in 2000, each with 45 percent support at this point, come closest to Clinton. …

Polls conducted more than two years before a presidential election don’t tell us all that much about the eventual vote percentages. But they do tell us that the Democratic and Republican fields for 2016 each look very unusual at this point in the race. The Republican picture is unusually muddled, and the Democratic picture is unusually clear.

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The claim has hardened into accepted fact among many Democratic operatives: Hillary Clinton is freezing the Democratic 2016 field as she waits until possibly late this year to decide on another presidential run. It’s virtually impossible for anyone other than Clinton to raise money or build a campaign infrastructure, the thinking goes, with Clinton hovering overhead.

Yet Clinton’s allies believe it’s not true — and increasingly they are saying so. In fact, they argue the opposite: that the former first lady is shielding other prospective Democratic contenders from months of attacks and scrutiny they’d probably face without her in the picture. There’s simply no need for Clinton to start a campaign this early, they say.

“I don’t buy it at all. It’s crazy,” William Daley, former chief of staff for President Barack Obama, said of complaints about her timetable. “Maybe they’re all better off … whoever jumps in will have instant analysis, attention … Most of these people have day jobs. That’s the most important thing for them” to do right now.

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The super PACs, like Ready For Hillary, know this very well. And even though they still don’t have a candidate, they are busy crafting a storyline for Clinton that would emphasize her background. At a recent event, the group featured a video montage of Clinton photos backed by Katy Perry’s “Roar.”  Lyrics:  “I got the eye of the tiger, a fighter, dancing through the fire / ‘Cause I am a champion, and you’re gonna hear me roar. Louder, louder than a lion / ‘Cause I am a champion, and you’re gonna hear me roar!”  (Sure sounds like the modern-day remix or at least a play on Helen Reddy’s 1971  feminist call-to-arms “I Am Woman,” and a certain generation is sure to hear it that way.)

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Hillary Clinton has begun laying out foreign-policy positions that sound a more hard-line note on Iran, Russia and other global trouble spots than is coming from President Barack Obama, underscoring how she might differentiate herself from the administration she served, should she run for president.

The former secretary of state this week voiced doubts that Iran would make good on an agreement that Mr. Obama hopes will curb that country’s nuclear program in exchange for relief from sanctions.

Mrs. Clinton, speaking to the American Jewish Congress in New York, said that she was “personally skeptical that the Iranians would follow through and deliver” on the nuclear deal reached last year.

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Nixon served Eisenhower, who left office (via Gallup) with a 59 percent approval rating. George H.W. Bush served Reagan, who left office with a 63 percent approval rating. Gore served Bill Clinton, who left office at 66 percent approval. Humphrey served Lyndon Johnson, who left with 49 percent approval.

We don’t know where Barack Obama will fall on that list. But he’s struggling now, and this is of particular concern for Biden because his likely opponent, Hillary Clinton, has already left the administration and can thus, in classic Clinton form, ditch unpopular policies and pretend to have had strong strategic instincts from the beginning. Biden cannot.

For example, Biden announced the administration’s “reset” with Russia, which turned out to be an appalling fiasco. But Clinton, as the nation’s chief diplomat, took high-profile stewardship of the reset. The disastrous policy still follows Biden around, as he must survey the wreckage of his administration’s failures and try to contain the damage. Clinton mocked Mitt Romney’s contention about Russia’s geopolitical threat to America, but now, freed from the administration, she can simply pretend she isn’t totally and catastrophically naïve about Russia…

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Mrs. Clinton will turn 69 years old just before Election Day 2016, which would make her the second-oldest president after Ronald Reagan, who was also 69 and a few months on Election Day.

By and large, the Democrats have put up younger nominees in recent years. In 1992, Bill Clinton, Mrs. Clinton’s husband, was 46 when he was elected, and Barack Obama was 47 in 2008.  Al Gore was 52 when he ran unsuccessfully in 2000, and John Kerry, the Democrat’s 2004 nominee, was 60 at the time.

If she decides to run, Mrs. Clinton will likely face a much younger Republican opponent, judging from the emerging GOP field. Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz both will be 45 on Election Day; Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan will be 46; Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul will be 53; and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie will be 54.

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Democrats everywhere now assume – as do Republicans – that Clinton is running for president in 2016. They are well aware that this is what running for president looks like. They only fear that something will happen to make her decide not to run, as her friends’ concerns that she should decline a campaign were the subject of a report in The Wall Street Journal this week. But as Clinton distances herself from Obama, rakes in the cash and prevents other Democrats from prepping a national campaign for a White House run in 2016, she might look around at the polls and see just what will happen to Democrats in this fall’s midterm elections if all current estimates are correct. They will lose badly. Does she want to start spending more time trying to save some Democratic senators in red states former Gov. Mitt Romney (R-Mass.) won handily, where Obama is very unpopular? Maybe not.