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Hillary Clinton rues 'wealth' gaffes. Will that end empathy debate?

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Lenny Ignelzi/AP

(Read caption) Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton speaks during a question and answer session at the BIO International Convention Wednesday, June 25, 2014, in San Diego. In an interview on 'PBS NewsHour' Wednesday night, Clinton apologized for her recent gaffes about her personal wealth.

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In a PBS interview broadcast Wednesday night, Hillary Rodham Clinton flatly apologized for her recent gaffes about her personal wealth.

At various points this month the former secretary of State has said she and her husband Bill were “dead broke” when they left the White House and tried to differentiate her family from people who are “truly well off.”

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“I shouldn’t have said the five or so words that I said, but my inartful use of those few words doesn’t change who I am,” Mrs. Clinton told Gwen Ifill of "PBS NewsHour."

In addition, Clinton pushed back hard against the notion that she’s the Democratic Mitt Romney – somebody who can’t talk about economic class without seeming out of touch with ordinary voters.

“That’s a false equivalency,” said Clinton after Ms. Ifill raised the Romney comparison.

It’s false, she said, because she has spent years thinking about jobs and the problems of US workers. “I’ve always been reaching out,” said Clinton, first during years as a senator and now on a book tour where she talks to people waiting in line about their hopes and concerns.

OK, then. Will this put all the talk about her wealth references behind her? Not likely, given that Clinton’s GOP critics see it as a way to increase voters’ negative perceptions of the (unannounced) 2016 Democratic frontrunner. They’ll hammer on this until something they believe is better comes along.

But is it possible that would be a waste of their time? Not because it’s ineffective – we’ve got no idea yet whether this is moving Clinton’s poll numbers – but because she might not run after all.

Clinton also told Ifill that you’ve got to be “a little crazy to run for president.” And during a separate book appearance Wednesday in San Francisco she sounded critical of the way the United States chooses its electoral leader.

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A number of people could serve the nation well as president, Clinton said, if somebody just woke them up in the morning and gave them the keys to the Oval Office. (A little wishful thinking there?)

“But that’s not how we do it,” said Clinton, according to an account of the appearance in the Los Angeles Times. “We say, ‘OK, get ready, put your armor on, run that gauntlet, see who survives at the end.’ And whoever is standing up still, that’s the winner.”

Maybe there will be changes to this system – perhaps limits on the amount of money that can flood into a campaign. But that won’t happen for some time, Clinton noted.

“So at least this next presidential election will be even more expensive, more challenging, with even more voices out there because you’ll be analyzed, criticized, supported from so many different directions,” said Clinton.

Wow, so Clinton is pretty realistic about her own situation, isn’t she? That process sure does not sound like much fun. We continue to believe that she is in fact already running for president. But she could still decide to stop running before the so-called “invisible primary” ends and real primaries begin. She makes that sound as if it remains a real possibility.