With her increasingly severe looks and drawn face, Hillary Clinton is fading fast from public eye. Few people think she will have it in her to run for the White House in 2016 when she will be 69, an age at which even Ronald Reagan's stamina for the job was questioned.
Clinton's best chance was in 2012, when Barack Obama beat her to the nomination. Still, working on Abraham Lincoln's "team of rivals" principle of drafting opponents into the cabinet, Obama made her the secretary of state, a job she has, by all accounts, done with distinction and panache.
On Monday, Hillary, putting aside all the baggage of her complex relations with the president, made one last sacrifice for her one-time opponent - taking the rap for the Libya fiasco which killed Christopher Stevens, the US ambassador to Tripoli, in what is seen as an selfless effort to secure a second term presidency for Obama.
"I take responsibility" for what happened on September 11, Clinton said in a CNN interview in Lima, Peru, one of her last stops in the final frenetic tours as secretary of state. "I want to avoid some kind of political gotcha."
The mea culpa, coming just 24 hours before the second presidential debate at Hoffstra University, where foreign policy will be on the table, spread like wildfire through the political area with pundits seeing it as Hillary's bailout card for the beleaguered president. Obama is certain to be attacked in the debate for the fiasco, although the he appears to have more trust from voters overall in foreign policy matters.
If Clinton succeeds in falling on the sword for Obama, as some analysts have put it, then she will join her husband in bailing out the president in the interests of the Democratic Party despite their initial reservations. Bill Clinton has been campaigning hard for Obama, and between them, the Clintons are tasked with retrieving the support of female voters which has fallen sharply in recent weeks.
Recent polls by Gallup show that after months of leading Romney by double digits among women, Obama's lead has melted and the two are almost tied. The Obama camp is desperate to bring women-related issues such as abortion and equal pay - where the Romney camp is on the defensive - to the table during the second debate.
Whether Hillary's mea culpa will help or harm the effort to win back women's vote is hard to fathom just now.
Hours after her taking up responsibility, a female columnist accused her of being a doormat and another conservative analyst charged the president with "blaming the girl" for the attacks.
Hillary has said she is leaving the administration, and a new secretary of state is certain if Obama wins a second term. The top candidate for the job is senator John Kerry, chairman of the senate foreign relations committee, who has also been playing the role of Mitt Romney in Obama's debate preparations.