Hillary in last-ditch bid for White House
Hillary comes out fighting in bid for White House
Hillary Clinton launched her long-awaited presidential campaign last night by presenting herself as "a champion for everyday Americans".
In a video message announcing her candidacy, the former First Lady promised to fight for the traditional American heartland - but also a rapidly-changing country that includes gay people and ethnic minorities.
Seven years after her first quest for the White House was derailed by an upstart Barack Obama, Mrs Clinton has made a low-key entry to the race for president, opting for a short online video instead of a campaign rally.
Entitled 'Getting Started', the two-minute video shows ordinary Americans talking about their hopes for the year. Among them are a Latino businessman speaking in Spanish about opening a business, and a gay couple discussing their upcoming marriage.
The video then cuts to Mrs Clinton in front of a suburban home where she declares: "I'm getting ready to do something too, I'm running for President.
"Americans have fought their way back from tough economic times, but the deck is still stacked in favour of those at the top," she says.
"Everyday Americans need a champion - and I want to be that champion."
The message is part of Mrs Clinton's effort to show that - despite decades in the public eye as first lady, senator and secretary of state, and despite a multi-million-dollar fortune from public speaking - she is in touch with everyday life in a changing America.
Unlike the 2008 presidential campaign, when she was opposed and ultimately defeated by Mr Obama and his legions of young supporters, Mrs Clinton this time faces no high-profile opponents from within her own party.
A handful of little-known governors and senators have indicated that they might run but so far none have officially announced their candidacies. Other potential challengers, such as the populist senator Elizabeth Warren, have opted to stay on the sidelines rather than take on the Clinton machine.
Despite her overwhelming lead in the polls and in fund-raising firepower, Mrs Clinton is at pains to show she is taking nothing for granted and to avoid the infighting that plagued her last campaign. In a memo to his staff, Robby Mook, her campaign manager,, said that 'Hillary for America', as the effort will be officially known, would show humility in its effort to make Mrs Clinton the most powerful person on the planet.
"We are never afraid to lose, we always out-compete and fight for every vote we can win. We know this campaign will be won on the ground, in states," he said.
Minutes before the video was released, the first official word of the Clinton campaign came in an email to supporters from her campaign chairman, urging them to begin donating to a presidential effort that is expected to ultimately raise more than $2bn (€1.9bn). Experts predict it will be the most expensive campaign in American history.
The email said: "It's official: Hillary's running for president."
The first test for Mrs Clinton's campaign will be Iowa, the Midwestern farming state where Mr Obama's young team defeated her staff of campaign veterans in 2008.
Iowans will be the first voters to cast their ballots in next year's primary elections and they demand candidates spend time travelling the state in person and making the case for their candidacy.
Her first events are likely to include small and intimate gatherings at coffee shops and community centres rather than rallies before thousands of supporters.
Republicans began attacking Mrs Clinton even before her announcement was made official, posting a critical video online with the title 'Stop Hillary'.
The party will paint the 67-year-old Mrs Clinton as a throwback to a previous generation and accuse of her of a penchant for secrecy that may cross the line into illegal behaviour. They have assailed her as a candidate for "Obama's third term" and focused on how her family charity accepted large donations from foreign governments.
She has also faced attacks over her use of a private email account while she was secretary of state, which Republicans say was an effort to skirt transparency laws.
Mrs Clinton is likely to face the winner of a crowded Republican primary field that includes Jeb Bush, the son and brother of two former presidents.
If Mrs Clinton and Mr Bush do face off in 2016 it will be a rematch for the two American political dynasties two decades after Bill Clinton defeated George HW Bush in the 1992 election.
While Mrs Clinton leads in the polls among Democrats, some on the left of the party are sceptical about her hawkish foreign policy instincts and her ties with the banks that dominate Wall Street.
Bill de Blasio, the mayor of New York City and one of the most progressive major politicians in America, said Mrs Clinton had not yet earned his support. Mr de Blasio said he would wait to see "an actual vision" before making a decision on whom to support.
Other Democrats groups are still trying to convince Mrs Warren, a populists senator from Massachusetts, to run against Mrs Clinton, arguing that the party needed a "contest not a coronation" as it picks its 2016 candidate. One question for Mrs Clinton as the campaign unfolds will be how closely to embrace the record of Mr Obama, a president she served for four years as secretary of state.
Mr Obama, conscious that a Republican victory in 2016 could mean the unravelling of much of his legacy, is likely to campaign vigorously for Mrs Clinton in the general election.
He said on Friday that she would be "an excellent president".
The Clinton campaign must also decide how best to deploy her husband, who remains one of the most popular public figures in America but was a volatile and sometimes angry figure on the election trail in 2008.
The former president says he intends to be "a backstage adviser" for most of this year, giving his wife space to re-introduce herself to voters without being overshadowed. (© Daily Telegraph, London)