By Donna Brazile
Hillary Clinton's announcement was as inevitable as the coming of springtime -- and with the way the weather has been, the coming of springtime seemed a lot iffier for a while. But now it's official: Hillary Clinton is running for president of the United States. Now that she's answered the question of if she's going to run, she'll have to answer questions about how she's going to run -- and how well.
Clinton has the Democratic field basically to herself, and is consistently leading in the polls against every potential Republican challenger. That's the result of decades of concerted efforts. Not all of her efforts have been successful, but they have all been instructive.
Hillary has taken her time and put together an impressive organization with top-flight talent and plentiful resources. She has more top-level experience at running a presidential campaign than any of her likely opponents. But if generals have to be careful to avoid fighting the previous war, politicians need to avoid running their prior races. Hillary is running a new and different race -- one informed by past experience, but not reliant upon it.
I like the fact that she's not starting out with a huge staff and a splashy launch. And I love that her national campaign headquarters are not in Washington, D.C., but in Brooklyn -- a name that says "blue collar" to older generations, and "hip" to younger ones.
Her agenda for the first part of the campaign is heavily weighted toward smaller, more intimate gatherings that allow voters to experience Hillary as a real person who is responsive to their concerns. But the media, political and cultural environments have changed enormously since 2008, and even more since the "listening tour" that served her well in her 2000 Senate run in New York. It will be difficult for her to interact with small groups without the media, as well as the tweeters, bloggers and trolls getting in the way.
Going forward, she will have to answer some key questions. For starters, she will have to explain why she wants to be president and where she will lead the country.
With Iran taking center stage in foreign policy, her success as secretary of state gives her a real advantage. She was the chief architect of the multilateral sanctions that squeezed Iran and brought it to the table. This was no easy feat, and no one in the Republican field even remotely approaches her bona fides on foreign policy.
On social policy issues, Hillary's record and opinions are well-known and consistent. She doesn't need to mask her policies, or try to do the abrupt about-face that some Republicans have to when discussing issues such as abortion with their rabid base.
On economic issues, her goals will be very clear -- the specifics of how to get there will come in time. As a woman, I think she has the capacity to talk about the economic issues that drive the women's vote in a way that the men in the race won't or can't. Questions of pay equity, paid sick leave and the minimum wage are economic issues, women's issues and family issues, and no candidate is more uniquely qualified to frame them as such.
Despite her strength as a candidate, not every Democratic elected official has lined up behind Clinton and endorsed her. Her 2000 Senate campaign manager, Bill de Blasio, who is now the mayor of New York City, appeared on "Meet the Press" last Sunday morning before her announcement. When pressed by host Chuck Todd if he would "unequivocally" endorse Clinton, de Blasio stopped short and stated, "Like a lot of people in this country, I want to see a vision." I am confident after her policy proposals are released, her vision for the country will become clear, and de Blasio and Americans across the country will share that vision.
According to several Democratic women leaders, Secretary Clinton needs to capture the imaginations of younger women in a way that she didn't in 2008, when those women didn't seem to sense the historic nature of her campaign, partly because her campaign was not stressing it. I think this time around her campaign is going to embrace the significance of electing the first woman president.
In the struggles ahead, Hillary has the benefit of lessons going back to 1992 and earlier. But she can't go back. She can only go forward. Fortunately, that is exactly where the American people want her to take them.