It’s no longer a question of will Hillary ClintonHillary Rodham ClintonHollywood stars make political statements with Oscars fashion Live coverage: Stars get political at Oscars 5 ways politics could steal the show at Oscars MORE run for president. It’s a question of how she’ll do it.
Clinton is widely expected to announce her second bid for the White House in the next two weeks, which overnight will thrust her nascent political operation into the spotlight.
The 2016 launch gives Clinton a chance to take control of the narrative on her candidacy, and to reintroduce her political brand to the public.
It’s a critically important moment for both Clinton and the Democratic Party, which at this point doesn’t have a strong option in 2016 aside from the former first lady.
Here are a series of key decisions that Clinton needs to make before she jumps in.
Will she announce in a video or will there be an event?
In January 2007, Clinton used a message on her website to announce her 2008 run for the White House.
“I’m in, and I’m in to win,” Clinton told the world.
But outside of a few webcasts in the following days, that Clinton campaign staged a very slow rollout. She gave no political speeches until March, when she marked the anniversary of the Selma civil rights marches in Alabama.
Many strategists expect her to release another video in April, but follow it up with a swing through key primary and general election states. Without the obligations in the Senate that tied her up in 2008, she can build off that momentum and work to define her candidacy from the start.
“I think you do multiple speeches in key states and showcase that she is going to be a candidate that will go to every corner of the country, even go to some red states and take the message there,” one Democratic strategist said, adding that a multi-state rollout could show that Clinton won’t take anything for granted this time.
Where will the announcement be made?
Hillary Clinton has been the first lady, a New York senator and a secretary of State. She has family roots in Illinois, a history in Arkansas and homes in New York and Washington. She is expected to run her campaign from Brooklyn.
The lack of an obvious choice frees her up to launch anywhere, including in key primary or general election states.
One Democratic strategist floated the idea of a kick-off in upstate New York for this campaign. That would serve a dual role of highlighting her service in the Senate and as well as her ability to win approval in GOP-leaning areas.
“People forget that she was a very successful senator that did very well even in Republican parts of New York,” he said.
Peter Fenn, a Democratic consultant who is also a pundit for The Hill, said that her best bet would be a social media push coupled with an announcement tour in the early primary states of Iowa and New Hampshire. Clinton’s upset loss in Iowa in 2008 represented the first major crack in her armor of inevitability, so many strategists predict she’ll spend substantial energy on the Hawkeye state.
Who will be with Hillary?
Will former President Bill Clinton, Chelsea Clinton or Hillary Clinton’s new granddaughter make an appearance?
It’s a difficult question for Clinton, given her unique political family.
Candidates typically jump into the field alongside their smiling spouses and children, in part to show voters that the candidate is just like us. But some question whether inviting President Clinton to stand alongside her during her first big event might force Hillary Clinton to share the spotlight.
Democratic strategists who spoke to The Hill agreed that inviting her family would help Clinton.
“Her family absolutely should be there, her husband and her daughter and her grandchild,” one strategist said.
“Bill should be there. He’s very popular within the party, he’s her husband and he was probably her biggest supporter [in the 2008 campaign].”
Will she embrace her campaign as a historic moment?
Clinton shied away from the narrative of becoming the first female president at times in 2008, as close advisors feared an emphasis on her gender could push some voters away.
But she cemented the metaphor of the “18 million cracks” in the glass ceiling during her concession speech in 2008, and that theme has been consistent in her public remarks since she left the State Department.
Many Democrats see that as a plus. One Democratic strategist said that Clinton would speak “from the heart,” which will resonate with voters.
“She is really comfortable talking about her gender because she's comfortable talking about herself,” she said.
“This is an important part of who Hillary is and what she stands for, and especially key considering her enormous and successful body of work throughout the decades to promote opportunity and equality for women and all Americans.”
But after years of voters deciding whether they’re ready for “Madame President,” Fenn and others questioned whether that message would resonate as strongly.
“In 2008, that was a good deal more novel,” he said.
“I don’t think she has to talk that much about it.”
How will she connect with voters?
“You’re likable enough, Hillary,” then-Sen. Obama told her on the campaign trail in 2008.
The dig characterized the biggest knock against Clinton: that more than two decades as American political royalty has left her out of touch with regular people.
That perception plagued her on the campaign trail. Many observers said Clinton was at her best when she let her guard down, as she famously did during a teary eyed moment at a New Hampshire diner in 2008.
For Fenn, one key emphasis of the impending 2016 campaign should be a robust schedule that allows Clinton to spend meaningful time with voters.
“People want to know their candidate for president, they want to feel them, see what makes them tick, that’s what she did when she ran for Senate in New York,” he said.
“I’d treat Iowa like it was New York that first time.”
A Democratic strategist added that the quest to paint Clinton as relatable starts as early as the announcement video. He called her 2008 announcement video, which had her sitting alone in a living room, “tone deaf.”
“The knock against Hillary in the last campaign was: Can she convey some humanity and feeling and concern for other folks?”