She's a private citizen now, but if Hillary Clinton changes her mind and decides to run for president again in 2016, she currently has something any politician would love: impressive poll numbers.
According to a new national survey from Quinnipiac University, 61 percent of registered voters say they have a favorable impression of Clinton, who stepped down last week after serving four years as secretary of state. Thirty-four percent of voters questioned in the poll, which was released Friday, say they had an unfavorable opinion of Clinton.
That 61 percent favorable rating is slightly lower than one in a recent ABC News/Washington Post poll, and also slightly lower than her approval rating in a recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal survey.
Both of those polls were conducted last month, prior to Clinton's testimony over the deaths last September of the U.S. ambassador to Libya and three other Americans in a terrorist attack in Benghazi. Clinton won generally favorable reviews for the testimony in front of both Senate and House committees. At times angry and choked with emotion, the secretary of state once again took responsibility for the deaths of the four Americans, but repeatedly distanced herself from a direct role in specific situations.
In an opened-ended question in the Quinnipiac poll, where respondents were able to provide any answer, a total of 45 percent with a favorable opinion of Clinton say the main reason is her job performance, experience and competence.
"Among those with an unfavorable opinion, 21% cite the Benghazi controversy," according to a release from Quinnipiac University.
While Clinton's new numbers remain high, there are two caveats. As with the prior polls, the new Quinnipiac survey indicates a partisan divide, with more than nine in ten Democrats and nearly six in ten independents but just 27 percent of Republicans having a favorable impression of Clinton.
And while her overall numbers are strong, it's best to take them with a grain of salt.
"One reason why Hillary Clinton's ratings are high may be that she is not running for office and held a position that many Americans view as non-partisan. If she becomes an active candidate again, it would not be surprising to see her numbers decline," said CNN polling director Keating Holland. "We saw this before with her. When she was first lady, her favorable ratings were often in the high 60's, but they dropped below 50 percent as soon as serious talk started of her running for the U.S. Senate from New York."
Even though the next race for the White House is a long way away, there's already intense speculation over whether Clinton will make a second bid for president. When asked early last week at a global town hall if she was thinking of making another run for the White House, Clinton said "I am not thinking about anything like that right now."
And in an interview with CNN later that day, when asked if she's decided against another candidacy for president, Clinton responded that "I have absolutely no plans to run."
But she added that "I am lucky because I've been very healthy. I feel great. I've got enormous amounts of energy that have to be harnessed and focused, so I'm very fortunate. I'm looking forward to this next chapter in my life, whatever it is."
If she does decide to run, thanks to her very positive favorable rating and her extremely strong name recognition, along with her years as first lady, senator, and 2008 presidential candidate, Clinton stacks up very well against some other possible contenders for the White House in 2016.
Vice President Joe Biden, a two time presidential candidate who may also make a bid for the Democratic nomination in the 2016 campaign, has a 46 percent-41 percent favorable-unfavorable rating in the new poll.
On the Republican side, Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, who next week will deliver the GOP response to President Barack Obama's State of the Union address, has a 27 percent-15 percent favorable-unfavorable, with 57 percent not knowing enough about him to form an opinion. House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, who was last year's Republican vice presidential nominee, is at 34 percent-36 percent favorable-unfavorable in the Quinnipiac survey, with 29 percent unsure. And former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who along with Rubio and Ryan may be thinking about running in 2016, stands at 25 percent-29 percent favorable-unfavorable, with 45 percent unsure.
The Quinnipiac University poll was conducted Jan. 30-Feb. 4, with 1,772 registered voters nationwide questioned by telephone. The survey's overall sampling error is plus or minus 2.3 percentage points.