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Former secretary of state and first lady begins campaign for 2016 White House with launch of new website, ending years of speculation about whether she would make a second attempt at the highest office in the United States.
Hillary Clinton announced on Sunday she is running for president of the United States, with the launch of a new campaign website.
“I’m running for president,” the former secretary of state and first lady says in a video on her site.
“Americans have fought their way back from tough economic times but the deck is still stacked in favour of those at the top. Everyday Americans need a champion, and I’m going 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. Because it’s your time. And I hope you’ll join me on this journey.”
A few minutes earlier, the news of Clinton’s candidacy was broken by an email from her likely campaign chairman John Podesta.
“It’s official: Hillary’s running for president,” he wrote to people involved with her 2008 campaign. “She is hitting the road to Iowa to start talking directly with voters.”
He said there would be a “formal kickoff event next month”.
The announcement brings to an end years of speculation over whether Clinton would make a second bid to become the first female US president and secure a place in history by interrupting a line of 44 male commanders in chief.
It marks the official commencement of her second attempt to crack what she called the “the hardest, highest glass ceiling” after being defeated by Barack Obama for the Democratic nomination in 2008.
It is a record that makes Clinton one of the most enduring – and polarising – figures in American politics.
Clinton’s campaign aides concede that that her familiarity to voters and decades of experience on the frontline of politics are both an asset in her bid for the White House and a potential weakness, allowing her to be portrayed as a candidate from the past.
Jeb Bush, the former governor of Florida, who is brother and son to recent White House occupants George W and George HW Bush, is currently among the frontrunners in the crowded field of aspiring Republican candidates. His nomination could turn the 2016 presidential election could turn into a battle between two of the most familiar – and controversial – family names in modern US history.
Sources close to Clinton insist that she is focused squarely on winning the Democratic nomination.
A campaign strategy document written by Clinton’s 35-year-old campaign manager, Robby Mook, and leaked to the press on the eve of her announcement instructed her staff to “take nothing for granted”.
“We are humble,” the memo said. “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.”
Clinton’s first trip as an official candidate will be to Iowa, the first-in-the-nation caucus state where she was pushed into third place by Obama and Senator John Edwards seven years ago, a humiliating setback from which she was unable to recover. One source familiar with Clinton’s campaign plans told the Guardian she could arrive in Iowa as early as Sunday afternoon.
Democrats in Iowa have reservations about Clinton, and are hostile to the idea their role is simply to anoint the candidate-in-waiting whom they rejected eight years ago. But the lack of any credible Democratic challengers to Clinton, who will draw on a supremely well-organized and well-funded campaign structure, make an upset extremely unlikely.
Elizabeth Warren, the Massachusetts senator beloved by liberals in the party – and perhaps the only Democrat with the kind of enthused support that could defeat the Clinton juggernaut – has said she will not enter the race.
Four men, none of whom have large followings in the party, have said they are exploring possible runs for the Democratic nomination: Martin O’Malley and Lincoln Chafee, former governors of Maryland and Rhode Island, Jim Webb, the former senator from Virginia, and Bernie Sanders, the independent senator from Vermont and self-described socialist.
If any of them run, they would probably campaign to the left of Clinton, a centrist figure whose hawkish foreign policy is resented by some in the party. Chafee on Sunday dismissed Clinton’s record at the State Department and sharply criticised her support as a senator for the Iraq war. “If you show lack of judgment, lack of doing your homework then, what can we expect in the future?” he said on CNN.
But Clinton enters the race with a formidable advantage and a wealth of support built up by the Ready for Hilary campaign network. She will immediately begin a fundraising push, eliciting support from both small-money donors and Wall Street plutocrats, amassing what is likely to be the largest campaign war chest in presidential history. Her total haul is expected to exceed the billion-dollar campaigns in 2012 of Obama and his Republican opponent Mitt Romney.
Clinton consistently polls higher than her potential Republican presidential rivals, sometimes reaching a 50% support threshold that fuels hopes among Democrats that she may prove impossible for the GOP to beat.
However, her support among voters has declined sharply since her departure from the State Department. While 67% of Americans then viewed her favourably as a possible presidential candidate, according to an ABC/Washington Post survey, now 49% do. She has suffered a marked drop in the number of people viewing her as “honest and trustworthy”.
Clinton faced a furore last month over the disclosure that as secretary of state she conducted government business over a personal email server. The decision allowed Clinton’s personal aides to sift through her messages and erase those they deemed irrelevant before handing over her archive to US officials for release as public records.
She has also been accused of leaving herself open to serious conflicts of interest by accepting millions of dollars in donations from foreign governments to her family’s philanthropic foundation while serving as America’s most senior diplomat.
The Democratic party establishment, however, is expected to unite behind Clinton as their presumptive nominee. The US electoral college will give democrats an in-built advantage over Republicans in 2016, although it is extremely rare for a party to hold the White House for three consecutive terms.
Clinton’s frontrunner status means she will have to absorb relentless attacks in the 577 days remaining before the election. On Saturday, Obama gave Clinton a strongly worded endorsement. “She was an outstanding secretary of state,” the president said on a visit to Panama, when asked about her imminent announcement. “She is my friend. I think she would be an excellent president.”
Bush and the other Republicans vying for their party’s presidential nomination, meanwhile, attacked Clinton even before her campaign’s official unveiling. The former Florida governor’s online video, which was posted to Twitter, warned voters against a continuation of “the Obama-Clinton foreign policy”.
He also moved to challenge Clinton’s claim to be the champion of the middle class, arguing that his “conservative ideas” would be those that ensured all Americans had “the right to rise and the opportunity to achieve the American dream”.
Rand Paul said on Sunday morning he intended to draw attention to what he called “a history of the Clintons thinking that they’re above the law” in light of the controversy over her email server. Aligning Clinton with the “neocons in my party”, the Republican Kentucky senator also criticised her support for US intervention in Libya in 2011 and her push to arm rebels in the Syrian civil war.
He argued that Clinton’s claims to fight for women’s equality were undermined by the acceptance of donations from authoritarian regimes in the middle east with “abysmal human rights records” by the Clinton Foundation.
“It questions the sincerity of whether or not she would be champion of women’s rights when she accepts money from a country like Brunei that stones to death people for adultery,” Paul told CNN.