From the time she was voted “most likely to succeed” by high school classmates, through the “firsts” she’s notched as college student, first lady, US senator, and secretary of state, everything Hillary Rodham Clinton has done would seem to have prepared her for this moment – her second and last try to become President of the United States.
That includes the darker experiences – the setbacks and failures in her professional and personal life. Sex scandal and impeachment of her husband when he was president. What she bitterly termed a “vast right-wing conspiracy” against her, striking some as Nixonian. An image of privilege (her private email server, millions in speaking fees and another book advance) and failures in office (Benghazi).
No doubt these have toughened and educated her, and for now, there’s a certain inevitability about Mrs. Clinton’s nomination and perhaps even election. No Democratic challenger has appeared, and polls show her well ahead of all Republican hopefuls, declared or otherwise.
But “inevitability” can be a political stone, and those who think Clinton’s “time has come” need to be wary.
“Inevitability as a message is a bad message, especially when it becomes clear you’re not as inevitable as you thought you were,” Democratic strategist Anita Dunn and former senior campaign advisor to President Obama told Time.
In her official online campaign launch Sunday, and in a memo to her staff, Clinton made clear that if she fails this time, it won’t be because of over-confidence.
In a memo to staff Saturday, "Hillary for America" campaign manager Robby Mook stressed that the campaign "is not about Hillary Clinton and not about us – it's about the everyday Americans who are trying to build a better life for themselves and their families."
"We are humble: We take nothing for granted, we are never afraid to lose, we always outcompete and fight for every vote we can win. We know this campaign will be won on the ground, in states,” the memo states. "When we disagree, it's never personal. Once a decision is made, we execute it – together. We know there will be tough days, but we will bounce back and get back to work."
Winning the campaign “on the ground” means personal contact with voters – a must in lead-off Iowa and New Hampshire, where Clinton is scheduled to travel in coming days. It also means facing the classic question for all candidates: “Does he (or she) understand people like me?”
“Our purpose: To give every family, every small business, and every American a path to lasting prosperity…,” the campaign memo reads.
Clinton’s campaign is more likely to pattern her successful 2000 US Senate run in New York rather than her unsuccessful presidential effort eight years later. In New York, she visited all 62 counties.
“Americans have fought their way back from tough economic times, but the deck is still stacked in favor of those at the top,” Clinton says in the video announcing her candidacy. “Everyday Americans need a champion, and I want to be that champion. So you can do more than just get by, you can get ahead. And stay ahead! Because when families are strong, America is strong. So I’m hitting the road to earn your vote.”
The 2016 campaign is likely to be the most expensive in history, with total spending on both sides expected to well exceed the $1 billion spent four years ago, the AP reports. This weekend, Clinton campaign fundraisers escalated their outreach to Democratic donors, who largely back her bid, with a flurry of phone calls urging them to donate as soon as possible.
Clinton's formal entrance into the race also triggered the start of more aggressive fundraising by Democratic outside super political action committees such as Priorities USA Action that have been reorganized to promote her campaign.
Organizations representing the Democratic Party base quickly weighed in with support for Clinton (the AFL-CIO and the abortion rights group NARAL Pro-Choice America) or pushing her to the left.
"The battle over the direction of the Democratic Party is coming to an end – the Elizabeth Warren wing has won, and the battle of big vs. small ideas is here. Americans are ready for boldness," Adam Green, co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, said in a statement. "We hope Hillary Clinton thinks big and takes on powerful interests on behalf of everyday working families. Progressives will continue working to put big, bold, economic populist ideas at the center of the national conversation."
Meanwhile, the Washington Post reports, a “highly coordinated effort by national GOP leaders and conservative groups to effectively begin the general-election campaign against the likely Democratic nominee…. a battery of opposition research, snarky videos and even an upcoming feature film.”
On Friday, the Republican National Committee launched a new anti-Clinton paid online ad, part of its “#StopHillary” campaign.
“From the East Wing to the State Department, Hillary Clinton has left a trail of secrecy, scandal and failed liberal policies that no image consultant can erase,” said RNC Chairman Reince Priebus in a statement. “Voters want to elect someone they can trust and Hillary's record proves that she cannot be trusted.”
When Clinton signed up for Twitter two years ago, she described herself as “Wife, mom, lawyer, women & kids advocate, FLOAR, FLOTUS, US Senator, SecState, author, dog owner, hair icon, pantsuit aficionado, glass ceiling cracker, TBD…”
That “to be determined” now points to what she hopes will be the successful last stop in a unique personal and political history that confirms her high school classmates’ prediction.