Hillary Clinton was a force in American politics before millions of young voters were born. She's held a more varied slate of positions – Bill Clinton's first lady, New York's senator, Barack Obama's Secretary of State - than any other politician in recent memory. After years of buildup and a hard-fought battle with Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, Clinton clinched the Democratic nomination. She’ll square off with Republican Donald Trump in the fall as the first woman at the head of a major American political party ticket. Here are a few key moments from her journey.
The campaign trail has been long, but not always kind, to Hillary Clinton.
She burst onto the national stage in 1992 alongside her husband, the Arkansas governor, and presented herself as the kind of potential first lady the country had never seen. Her bluntness often stirred controversy, particularly when she once declared: "I suppose I could have stayed home and baked cookies and had teas."
The campaign trail is unforgiving and often unreal – and that has served up endless frustration for Clinton.
But when she finally became a candidate in her own right in 2000, after declaring her candidacy for an open Senate seat in New York, she held a series of listening tours in hopes of getting acquainted with her soon-to-be-adopted state.
She won the race and cruised to re-election in 2006, a winning streak that came to an end two years later when she (and her campaign team) underestimated an Illinois freshman senator named Barack Obama.
It was that rough-and-tumble campaign, which dragged on for nearly 18 grueling months, that offers a list of what she should – and shouldn't – do as she begins her second bid for the presidency.
Clinton has never adjusted easily to the campaign trail. The constant comparisons to her husband have always loomed large. The question now is whether nearly a quarter-century of trying has fortified and prepared her for what is surely her final attempt to become president.
A string of scandals that influenced the early chapters of the Clinton era have long ago been tucked away into the closet of history.
The stories of Gennifer Flowers and Whitewater and Travelgate seem so distant now -- foreign, in fact, to a whole generation of young voters – that it's far from certain whether they will even resurface during the 2016 presidential race.
But Monica Lewinsky's recent return to the public eye after nearly two decades off-stage provides a timely reminder that old tales can offer fresh lessons into the thinking of Hillary Clinton and her fiercely loyal circle of advisers. And, of course, they help explain how she became the person and candidate she is today.
The unprecedented evolution from first lady to senator to presidential candidate to secretary of state cannot be fully understood without a full appreciation of her (and President Bill Clinton's) uncomfortable history in the spotlight.
Her humor and heart, paranoia and protectiveness, suspicion and skepticism are all on display in each of these moments from her past.
Her hot-and-cold relationship with the press has long been shaped by this series of stinging scandals. The blunt declaration of a "vast right-wing conspiracy" will forever remain an iconic part of the soundtrack from her long public life, along with the unforgettable reference to Tammy Wynette and standing by her man.
But taken together, with the forgiving benefit of distance and context, these moments also show how much she has grown as a political figure.
As she embarks on a second presidential campaign and steps into a frenzied media environment for another beginning, it's important to remember that it's only a slight exaggeration to say that she truly has been through it all – and survived.
Hillary Clinton is a woman of firsts. She's the only first lady elected to the U.S. Senate. She's the only first lady to become a Cabinet secretary.
The long and steady professional rise of Clinton started with those early days as a young lawyer on the House Judiciary Committee during the Watergate investigation. Her decision to move to Arkansas was helped along not only by her Yale Law School sweetheart, Bill Clinton, but also because she failed the District of Columbia's bar exam and ultimately passed the test in Arkansas.
In her role as first lady of Arkansas, she also became the first female partner at the Rose Law Firm. She's been an advocate for children – at each stop along her professional career – for more than three decades.
Her pursuit of health care reform in the White House, while serving as first lady, was a rocky introduction to national politics. While spurned by Congress on that effort, she would later work alongside some of those early critics as the junior senator from New York.
It is her eight years as senator, in addition to her time as secretary of state, that provides one of the best windows into how she would govern if elected president. That portion of her record will be the most carefully examined during her second presidential campaign.
Hillary Rodham Clinton has been preparing for this moment all of her life.
From Wellesley to Yale and from Little Rock to Washington and beyond, her personal milestones will be front and center in her second presidential campaign. She's a baby boomer -- were she to win, she'd likely be one of the last in her generation to occupy the Oval Office.
This time around, her personal biography is far more than mother and wife. She's a proud grandmother, beaming at the mere mention of baby Charlotte.
This could be the best antidote to the question that has dogged Clinton for decades: Can she still connect to average voters after living such a remarkable and rarified life?
The role of grandmother also provides a compelling narrative for Clinton, allowing her to embrace a lifetime of experience that has prepared her for the role. If elected, she would be 69 when becoming president.
Bill Clinton, from those long-ago days when they met at Yale Law School, is still right by her side even if aides say he won't be as visible as in earlier political campaigns. She swept onto the national stage in 1992 as his partner, often enduring a rough road.
Now, he's the sidekick. The spotlight is hers.
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