Will Syria crisis harm Hillary Clinton in 2016?

Clinton is still the big fish in a little pond, with a big support network ready to jump the minute she gives the signal – and few other Democrats making serious noises about running. Vice President Biden is clearly interested, but even more tied to the Obama brand than Clinton is. None of the other potential Democratic contenders (such as Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, and Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar) has carved out a profile on Syria.

As for the general election, if Clinton is the nominee, it’s hard to imagine that Syria would have a major impact on her prospects – assuming, as the Obama administration insists, that any US military action would last only a few days. If airstrikes morphed into a longer engagement and “boots on the ground,” then that’s a different story, and Clinton might well be damaged. But any limited engagement would be long over by the time voters go to the polls in November 2016.

Syria comes up in the context of the 2016 campaign mainly because of Clinton’s history. In 2002, Senator Clinton voted in favor of the Iraq invasion – a position that, at the time, seemed to bolster her credibility as a “defense Democrat,” but ended up giving an opening to then-Senator Obama in the 2008 campaign. Obama had opposed the Iraq War from the start, and his popular antiwar stance gave him critical momentum against Clinton.