"I'm running for president," former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced in a video released Sunday afternoon. "Everyday Americans need a champion. And I want to be that champion," Mrs. Clinton said. "So I'm hitting the road to earn your vote -- because it's your time. And I hope you'll join me on this journey."
Clinton's highly anticipated announcement video, called "Getting Started," at first features appearances from a diverse cross section of working class Americans. It is positive, hopeful and family-oriented. Clinton, who first appears 90 seconds into the two-minute and eighteen second video, is warm, confident and upbeat. But her message is clearly targeted, "Americans have fought their way back from tough economic times, but the deck is still stacked in favor of those at the top. "
Clinton offered no specific plans on how she will champion everyday Americans. But Clinton is expected to focus her campaign on stagnant wages and income inequality. The U.S. economy has improved greatly since the recession of 2008, but many Americans have not benefited from the progress. And, while likely and declared Republican candidates have forwarded the argument for income equality, their proposed solutions are viewed with suspicion. However, Clinton will have to more clearly articulate her plans for growing the economy in order to connect with lower and middle class voters.
While Clinton is not likely to face serious opposition for her own party's nomination, she, nonetheless, faces a serious challenge in differentiating herself from her predecessor. Democrats have failed four of the last five times to win three consecutive terms as president. And more Americans disapprove President Barack Obama's performance than approve it according to most recent polls. President Obama does poorest among those polled on foreign policy. Clinton will have to navigate the tricky shoals of separating herself from President Obama while not alienating his many supporters, especially African Americans. And she has to hope that President Obama does not have a serious enough foreign policy setback during the remainder of his term to hurt her candidacy.
Even though her service as Secretary of State would seem to be a strength, Republican candidates will do all they can to diminish this advantage. They will pair her with the president on policy problems in Syria, Libya, Iraq, Iran and Ukraine. They will describe her stint at the State Department as a failure. They will say she achieved nothing while in office except frequent flyer miles. Clinton will need a stronger answer for these kinds of questions than she had for ABC New's Diane Sawyer last year when she did not cite a single accomplishment during her term at State.
Perhaps no other presidential candidate is as well known to voters as is Hillary Clinton. She is viewed favorably by almost half those recently polled. But her unfavorable numbers are also very high. Hillary Clinton is a polarizing figure in American politics. Maybe that is why she frequently references her identity as a woman, and better yet, a grandmother. Nonetheless, she will need to make it clear she can accomplish her goals despite a recalcitrant Congress. Americans are tired and frustrated with the Congressional gridlock that has characterized the previous six years on Capitol Hill.
But Congressional Republicans have been attacking Clinton for years, and, with her announcement, those attacks will be more amplified. From Whitewater to Benghazi, Clinton continues to be a lightening rod for a litany of charges that galvanize GOP party members and donors against her. Just last week Republican Senator Rand Paul, who announced his candidacy for president, dropped hints in a campaign appearance of a scandal with the Clinton Foundation. While none of these scandals have panned out, Republicans will continue their barrage of attacks. But the more they attack her for these so-called scandals, the more they risk angering and energizing uncommitted Democrat and independent voters to support her.
Clinton's challenge will not be fighting off Republican attacks. Rather, it will be to connect with America's working class by clearly laying out what she will do as president to make their lives better. Yes, if elected, she would be the first woman president. Yes, she has no challengers for her party's nomination. But if she campaigns as a front-runner, or as someone who is entitled to the presidency, she will falter.
Her unconventional announcement video indicates that this time will be different. But with about 18 months to go before the 2016 elections, a loaded field of Republican candidates attacking her, and record amounts of campaign money being spent, this campaign will no doubt be most unconventional.
And it is only just getting started!