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Hillary Clinton says she’s done with ‘high wire of American politics’

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Hillary Clinton talks to President Obama ahead of the State of the Union on Jan. 24, 2012. (Evan Vucci/AP)

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told State Department employees Thursday that she will not stay on in the job if President Obama wins re-election, saying that after two decades, she is ready to step off "the high wire of American politics."

"I think I have made it clear that I will certainly stay on until the President nominates someone and that transition can occur," Clinton said at a "town hall" forum with State Department employees Thursday morning. "But I think after 20 years—and it will be 20 years—of being on the high wire of American politics and all of the challenges that come with that, it would be probably a good idea to just find out how tired I am."

"I don't want to think about what might come next, because I don't want me or any of us to divert our attention," Clinton continued, adding that she plans to "work as hard as I can to the last minute I have the honor of being Secretary ... to support all of you."

Clinton was answering a question at a State Department meeting with department employees Thursday morning when she made the statement. The event was ostensibly to mark the anniversary of the Department's issuing of its first "Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review" (QDDR)--a major agency vision/planning document that Clinton sees as a key legacy of her tenure as Obama's top diplomat. But as often happens with Clinton--(see for instance the dozens of reports noting the return of her famous headband when she attended Obama's State of the Union address Tuesday night)--her own celebrity news instantly eclipsed the subject at hand.

"Clinton tells State employees she's not staying on if Obama re-elected but will work until last minute," CNN's Elise Labott first posted on Twitter.

Clinton has previously said in numerous interviews that she would serve only one term as Obama's Secretary of State. She has said that she loves the job but has found the constant international travel physically grueling, and has longed to work on promoting women's and children's development, writing and travel, from private life.

"There's so many things I'm interested in, I mean, really going back to private life and spending time reading, and writing, and maybe teaching, doing some personal travel, not the kind of travel where you bring along a couple of hundred people with you," Clinton elaborated to Tavis Smiley last year.

But her soaring popularity numbers and global celebrity status have fueled constant speculation on her future political plans. She and the White House have vehemently denied a persistent rumor that she might be nominated to run as Obama's vice president at the DNC this fall. She has also previously denied that she will pursue another run at the presidency in 2016 (though not all of her aides are convinced).

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