Finally: Hillary Clinton has entered the 2016 presidential race

Ready for the spotlight.
Ready for the spotlight.
Image: Reuters/Jim Young
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Time for one more shot at the glass ceiling.

The former secretary of state, senator and first lady of the United States made her entry into the presidential race official in an e-mail from her campaign chairman to donors that was obtained by the New York Times. Soon after, her campaign website posted a YouTube video that ends with Clinton telling Americans that she is “hitting the road to earn your vote.”

Her widely-expected candidacy has so far cleared the field of major competition, making her the front-runner to be the Democratic nominee for president in 2016 and potentially succeed President Barack Obama, becoming the first female president in US history.

“We just wanted to get this thing over with and get on with it,” a Clinton operative told Politico.

Her campaign, the product of a political machine that has ground back to life in the two years since Clinton stepped down as Obama’s top diplomat, says it will attempt to avoid the mistakes that plagued her last run at the nation’s highest office: The sense that the campaign was about Clinton rather than the presidency, and relentless in-fighting, both of which left her vulnerable to Obama’s insurgent campaign from the left.

The announcement, which comes three months later than in her 2007 race, is a sign of her strength in the party. All of the other putative Democratic candidates, including Senator Bernie Sanders, former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley and former Virginia Senator Jim Webb, lack national profiles and face huge deficits in public opinion polls. More widely-known potential challengers, like Vice President Joe Biden or Senator Elizabeth Warren, have signaled they are unlikely to run.

Clinton remains a polarizing figure outside the Democratic party, where she is almost universally admired. Questions about her approach to email record-keeping while at the State Department—and how she used it to avoid scrutiny from the press and lawmakers—are a reminder that she and her husband, former President Bill Clinton are not without their weaknesses. The often acrimonious debate over gender and equality in the US will no doubt play a role in how her campaign is judged by the public.

But it would be a mistake to think Clinton won’t be a formidable opponent. While critics have noted her falling approval ratings since she left her cabinet job—though she has a double-digit lead over her opponents in that category—it’s a natural part of returning to the political fray. The real test of her abilities will be when, as a full-fledged candidate, she can respond directly to her critics—and attempt to convince American voters she should be their next president.

In other words, get ready for a political free-fire zone. Today’s other debutant is the latest season of Game of Thrones on HBO; when Clinton last launched this effort, the network’s leading program was The Wire. To mix both is to find the subtext of this new campaign: You come at the Queen, you best not miss.