• Hillary makes surprise visit to president-elect
• Transition team said to respect her despite clashes
* Suzanne Goldenberg in Washington
* guardian.co.uk, Saturday November 15 2008 00.01 GMT
Hillary Clinton's hopes of becoming Madam President died months ago - at least for 2008. But could she rise again as Madam Secretary?
Anticipation that Clinton could be called to serve in Barack Obama's cabinet rose yesterday after his aides leaked details of a secret meeting between the two primary rivals at his transition headquarters in Chicago.
The speculation focused on whether Obama and Clinton were in talks about her serving as secretary of state. But some Democrats said Obama wanted a more general conversation about whether Clinton wanted to stay in the Senate, or serve in his administration.
Clinton's visit to Obama's office on Thursday was not on her official schedule, and her Senate staff had previously said she was in Chicago for personal reasons.
She gave little away about her future yesterday, telling a conference in Albany, New York: "I'm not going to speculate or address anything about the president-elect's incoming administration."
The Clinton camp was adamant that the meeting was not a job interview. But it has fuelled speculation that Clinton is a contender for a major cabinet post.
Since winning the election, Obama has entertained a stream of high-level visitors, but yesterday's meeting was seen as more than an ordinary courtesy call. Clinton campaigned strenuously on Obama's behalf after the primaries, and there has been intense speculation on whether she would be rewarded with a cabinet post.
Journalists staking out Obama's headquarters caught on to the meeting after seeing two separate motorcades of black SUVs leave the building. Clinton, who has secret service protection as a former first lady, normally travels in such a convoy.
Aides from the Obama camp, which has been sealed against leaks throughout the campaign and transition, confirmed that a meeting took place. As the Obama camp acknowledges, Clinton would bring a degree of heft as well as celebrity to the job of secretary of state. As she endlessly noted on the campaign trail, she visited more than 80 countries as first lady, building up a reservoir of goodwill for the Clinton brand as well as America. Those assets may overpower any reservations Obama might have about installing his former rival, or of giving an international platform to Bill Clinton as her spouse.
Obama has begun relying heavily on talent first recruited by the Clintons, from Rahm Emanuel, his chief of staff, to John Podesta, who is part of the trio heading his transition team. The Politico website reported that 31 of the 47 appointments to transition or staff posts had worked in the Clinton administration. Clinton also has a number of key defenders in Obama's inner circle. The most influential of these is the vice-president-elect, Joe Biden, a friend of the former first lady.
But Obama also relies on a number of trusted allies from Chicago. Last night it emerged that long-term friend and supporter Valerie Jarrett will be named as his White House senior adviser.
Jarrett is one of Obama's key advisers and has been close to the president-elect since Jarrett hired Michelle Obama for a job in the Chicago mayor's office in 1991 .
The Clinton camp, meanwhile, did not deny the reports of a meeting, but offered no comment. "Any speculation about cabinet or other administration appointments is for president-elect Obama's transition team to address," Philippe Reines, a Clinton adviser, said in an email yesterday.
Others in the Clinton camp noted that it could rebound against Obama if he raised hopes only to frustrate them again. Among Clinton supporters, there remains anger that she was passed over as vice-president. A member of her inner circle said: "If they are toying with her and don't give it to her at this point they have a created a political disaster."
Clinton's inclusion on Obama's short-list is seen as a lack of confidence in John Kerry, an early frontrunner for secretary of state. Kerry, who ran for president in 2004, has sent out signals he wants the job, and Obama owes him a debt of loyalty: he came out relatively early in support.
He said, she said
Working alongside a former rival is an awkward position for anyone, let alone the US president. As Barack Obama considers appointing Hillary Clinton to his administration, here are the less charitable assessments they made of each other during the campaign.
'I thought that was irresponsible and, frankly, naive'
Clinton on Obama's willingness to meet the leaders of nations hostile to the US, July 24 2007
'I think what is irresponsible and naive is to have authorised a war without asking how we were going to get out'
Obama on Clinton's vote to support the invasion of Iraq, July 25 2007
'You're likable enough, Hillary'
Obama, after Clinton called him "very likable" in a debate, January 5 2008
'When I was out there working in the streets ... you were a corporate lawyer sitting on the board of Walmart'
Obama on Clinton's authenticity, January 21 2008
'If your candidacy is going to be about words, they should be your own words. Lifting whole passages is not change you can believe in, it's change you can Xerox'
Clinton, accusing Obama of plagiarism, February 21 2008
'What exactly is this foreign experience that she's claiming? I know she talks about visiting 80 countries [but] I have not seen any evidence she is better equipped to handle a crisis'
Obama on Clinton's foreign policy, March 5 2008
Click to view image: '250259-clinton460.jpg'
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