The end of Hillary Clinton as we've known her

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton prepares to speak on stage during an event on March 16, 2015 in New York, N.Y. (Photo by Yana Paskova/Getty)
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton prepares to speak on stage during an event on March 16, 2015 in New York, N.Y.

Since Hillary Clinton stepped down as secretary of state in February of 2013, she’s done more or the less the same thing every week: Give speeches, collect awards, promote her book and charitable projects, and coyly dodge questions about whether she’ll run for president in 2016.

That all changes today.

Monday marks the last day that Clinton, who tends to plan appearances months in advance, has any public appearances on her calendar. It’s the end of Clinton as we’ve known her. The next time she emerges publicly, Clinton is likely to be a candidate for president.

After all the anticipation, the launch of is now imminent and no longer a question of “if” but “when.” On Friday, Democrats across Washington sent emails to colleagues and reporters announcing it was their last day on their jobs in the White House or at the Democratic National Committee, with future plans left unsaid but an open secret. Others have already moved to Iowa or New York City to be in place for an official announcement, which will come sometime in April, aides say.

While Clinton has stumbled during the interregnum, especially around her 2014 book tour and in the face of controversy over the past month, she’s survived two years with her presidential ambitions intact even with Republicans and the media treating her as a presidential candidate.

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Her poll numbers have fallen as she’s stepped back into partisan politics, but Clinton remains the most popular and well known potential presidential candidate of either party and the prohibitive frontrunner for the Democratic nomination.

Almost nine in 10 potential Democratic primary voters say they could see themselves supporting Clinton, according to a recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, while the GOP field is deeply fractured.

Clinton’s decades in the spotlight means the vast majority of Americans will come into the 2016 campaign with already set notions of Clinton, making it more difficult for Republicans to change peoples’ minds. Over the past two years, the GOP have thrown a potpourri of attacks at Clinton, but her public image has proven resilient, even when Clinton was slow or clumsy in her response, or her problems self-inflicted.

It’s been 20 months since Republican operatives cut their first ad hitting Clinton on Benghazi, 15 months since Sen. Rand Paul first mentioned Monica Lewinsky, 11 months since Karl Rove called Clinton “old and stale,” and nine months since Republicans sent a squirrel to stalk Clinton.

Things will likely only get more intense for Clinton as she heads into the real campaign, but at least now she can drop the coy act and prepare for war with a real army.

On Monday, she’ll speak at the liberal Center for American Progress think tank in the morning on labor issues and then at a ceremony to present a journalism award in the evening. After that, it’s a new chapter.