After a months-long buildup, Hillary Rodham Clinton announced Sunday she’s running for president again, and promises things will be different this time. Welcome to Clinton 2.0.
The former secretary of state, senator, and first lady declared in a video posted to her new website Sunday afternoon, “I’m getting ready to do something, too – I’m running for president.”
The 2 minute and 18 second video features a range of Americans, from a small businessman to an immigrant speaking Spanish, telling the camera they’re getting ready for something: Home improvements, moving, home repairs, Kindergarten. A gay couple, holding hands, says they are preparing to wed.
Finally, Clinton appears one and half minutes in. “Americans have fought their way back from bad economic times, but he deck is still stacked in favor of those at the top,” she says, echoing the populist message of progressive wing of the Democratic party. “I’m hitting the road to earn your vote. Americans need a champion and I want to be your champion. It’s your time.”
She plans to travel to Iowa Tuesday, followed by visits to New Hampshire and South Carolina. Bill Clinton will not be hitting the trail with Clinton in Iowa, campaign officials tell msnbc, but will appear later and has been involved behind the scenes.
Top aide John Podesta officially confirmed Clinton’s run for president in an email to Democratic members of Congress and chiefs of staff just before the video was released. “I wanted to make sure you heard it first from me,” Podesta wrote. “There will be a formal kickoff event next month, and we look forward to seeing you there.”
The video draws a stark contrast from her announcement video from January 2007, which showed Clinton – alone – speaking to straight to the camera to say: “I’m in it to win it.” This time, Clinton does not even appear until halfway through, making it clear that her campaign aims to be about voters and not her ambitions.
The “getting ready” message evokes the super PAC Ready for Hillary, which has for two years been laying the groundwork for a Clinton campaign. Having long planned to shut down when Clinton got in, the group changed its name today and plans to be out of its offices by the end of the week.
The video was shot last week all over the country, including in Iowa and New Hampshire, according to campaign officials, who added that the voices are all “real people,” not actors or stock footage.
The message announcing her run was posted to her Twitter account – now adorned with her new campaign logo – and was viewed 3 million times in one hour, according to Twitter.
Clinton will put the challenges facing the middle class front and center in this campaign, aides say, and will focus on restoring economic security. She’ll present 2016 as a choice election, rather a referendum on the current president, Barack Obama, whom aides say she will continue to embrace despite his middling popularity.
For political insiders and wary Democrats who watched Clinton’s 2008 presidential bid implode, the nascent 2016 effort has been sending plenty of signals that Clinton 2.0 will bear little resemblance to Clinton 1.0.
A memo to staff from campaign manager Robby Mook, obtained by msnbc Saturday evening, stressed teamwork, humility, and “fun” – a sharp contrast from a previous campaign marked by a dearth of all three. Few senior officials from Clinton’s 2008 bid have returned for round two.
“She’s definitely a stronger candidate,” longtime Clinton ally Rep. Carolyn Maloney told msnbc at event for Ready for Hillary in New York City Saturday.
While a few other Democrats are eyeing a bid for the party’s Democratic nomination, including former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, former Virginia Sen. Jim Webb and former Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee, none can match Clinton’s name recognition, fundraising ability and breadth of support in the party. While some left-leaning activists have tried to lure Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren into the race, polls show there is little unhappiness about Clinton’s candidacy among Democrats.
O’Malley, via via a spokesperson that he is undaunted. “The Democratic Party will benefit from a robust issues debate, and—should Governor O’Malley decide to enter the race—he will bring one,” spokesperson Lis Smith said in a statement.
Related: Republicans rush to condemn Hillary
In 2008, Clinton downplayed her gender, was slow to embrace the first-in-the-nation Iowa caucuses, and entered the process with an air of inevitability. Her third place showing in the Iowa caucuses was a humiliating setback and all but cemented Obama as the 2008 nominee.
This time, Clinton has spent lots of time discussing women, plans to go all in on Iowa, and is gunning to be the underdog.
“Secretary Clinton’s candidacy is a powerful message to girls that they can aspire to the highest office, and an equally powerful message to boys that women can be leaders on an equal footing with men. That’s a transformative milestone in our society that is long overdue,” said National Organization for Women president Terry O’Neill.
Republicans wasted no time attacking the newly declared candidate, telegraphing the strategy they are likely to employ against Clinton for the next 20 months. The overall message: Hillary Clinton is not to be trusted. To make this point, they’ll remind voters of the scandals that plagued the Clinton White House in the 1990s – as well as more recent ones – and argue Clinton is too calculating.
“For more than a decade, she has been running from scandal. Can you remember a time when the Clintons were not surrounded by controversy, particularly controversies of their own making?” Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus wrote in an op-ed for USA Today.
Clinton’s campaign, despite all its all strengths, has plenty of challenges. It’s unclear whether she’ll be able to motivate Democrats to come to the polls in November of 2016 and whether she can keep together the coalition that elected Barack Obama twice.
Clinton’s campaign is eager to lower sky-high expectations, saying fundraising will be more difficult than many expect and that they expect the race will come down to the wire. They note that history is not on her side, since a party has only won a third term in the White House once, when Vice President George H.W. Bush succeeded Ronald Reagan in 1988, since the two-term limit rule was implemented.
Aides say she will embrace Obama’s legacy, saying the race will bare a greater resemblance to the 1988 Bush effort than Al Gore’s run in 2000, when he ran from President Bill Clinton despite having served two terms as Clinton’s vice president.
Obama all-but-endorsed Clinton Saturday while on a trip to Panama. “She was a formidable candidate in 2008,” Obama said. “She was a great supporter of mine in the general election. She was an outstanding secretary of state. She is my friend. I think she would be an excellent president.”
Even the campaign name – “Hillary for America” – is a stark contrast from her 1.0 name: “Hillary Clinton for President.”
Behind the scenes, Clinton’s staff on Friday moved into the 11th floor of a Brooklyn, New York high-rise, which will serve as the campaign’s headquarters. They’ve been locked in meetings and conference calls as they hammer out the details of the launch.
Clinton has had no political operation since joining the Obama administration in 2009, and declined to set up a PAC like other candidates, so her team will spend the days after he announcement assembling the kind of infrastructure necessary for a campaign to reach supporters and donors.
Operational issues like getting staff official email addresses, phones, and leasing office space in early states will all have to be cemented quickly.
Outside the headquarters, the Republican National Committee had staffers on hand to spin reporters and mysterious anti-Clinton signs appeared on lampposts. The RNC, which handed out USB thumb drives with anti-Clinton messages, said they were not behind the street art.