WASHINGTON (TIP): US secretary of state Hillary left the door open on Friday to continuing to serve under President Barack Obama should he win a second term that would begin in January.

One of Obama’s most popular cabinet members, Clinton has repeatedly insisted she would leave her office as America’s top diplomat at the end of the Obama administration’s first term.

But she hinted at serving beyond then in an interview with The Wall Street Journal.

“A lot of people have talked to me about staying,” Clinton said.

She said it was “unlikely” that the fallout from the deadly September 11 attack on the US consulate in the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi would force her to stay on, though left that possibility open for the first time since she took office in 2009.

The hint not only suggests continuity in Obama’s foreign policy, but also broadens the president’s appeal among women voters, who have backed him in the past but are increasingly supporting his Republican challenger Mitt Romney. Clinton, who lost her 2008 Democratic presidential nomination bid to Obama, has long been seen as a possible White House contender in 2016. But she has been adamant in quashing the rumours.

“I have ruled it out,” said Clinton, who turned 65 on Friday. “It’s important for me to step off this incredibly high wire I’ve been on… to take stock of the rest of my life.” In a separate interview with The Washington Post, Clinton reiterated her intention to step down after a single term, even if Obama is reelected.

“I’m aiming to leave shortly after the inauguration; that’s my plan,” she said, explaining she would stay until her successor is confirmed. “But I haven’t been able to sit down and talk to the president yet because he’s trying to win an election, which hopefully will be finalized shortly. And then we will talk through how to do the transition.”