Hillary Clinton, a woman who has lived in the public eye for the better part of three decades, is looking to write the latest chapter of her life by doing what she failed to do in 2008: win the presidency.
Clinton’s life has seen the former first lady go from a child raised in a conservative home outside Chicago to one of the most recognizable women in the world.
She became a household name in 1992 when her husband, Bill Clinton, won the presidency. Since then, Hillary Clinton has become a political force in her own right, serving in the Senate for eight years, unsuccessfully running for President in 2008 and leading the State Department from 2009 to 2013.
Clinton’s latest run at the presidency has been widely anticipated for years and much of the Democratic Party’s infrastructure has already lined up behind her. Even before Clinton left the State Department in early 2013, speculation that she would take another shot at the White House followed her.
For her part, Clinton willingly teased those expectations for the better part of the last two years as she crisscrossed the country delivering paid speeches, selling a new memoir and stumping for Democrats during the 2014 midterm elections.
Clinton officially launched her presidential campaign in April 2015 with a slickly produced video.
“I’m running for president,” Clinton said in the video. “Everyday Americans need a champion, and I want to be that champion – so you can do more than just get by – you can get ahead.”
Clinton, the first to enter the Democratic presidential field, came into the race as the prohibitive favorite for the nomination.
Months removed from her announcement, Clinton’s victory looks far less certain.
From Chicago to Washington
Hillary Clinton was born in Chicago, Illinois, and grew up in Park Ridge, a middle-class, primarily white suburb.
Clinton was brought up in a split household. Her father, Hugh Rodham, a small businessman known for being strict, was a conservative Republican, while her mother, Dorothy, was a Democrat.
“She embraced her mother’s politics and never got over her father’s hard-headedness,” Bill Clinton is fond of saying.
Clinton’s involvement in youth programs at First Methodist Church in Park Ridge defined her upbringing and, to many people close to her, shaped her into the person she has become today. Don Jones, a Methodist youth pastor, exposed Clinton to inequality in urban Chicago, introduced her to other ways of thinking and even introduced her to Martin Luther King Jr.
While Clinton volunteered on the presidential campaign of Republican candidate Barry Goldwater in 1964, she soon became a Democrat after enrolling in Wellesley College. Clinton campaigned for insurgent Democrat Eugene McCarthy in 1968 and by the time she graduated in Yale University Law School in 1973, Clinton was a full-fledged Democrat who went on to work for the Children’s Defense Fund and on the committee looking to impeach President Richard Nixon.
Clinton consequentially decided to move to Arkansas in 1974, following her then-boyfriend Bill Clinton – the pair met as Yale Law students. The couple married in 1975, and so began the life of what would become one of the most prominent families in Democratic politics.
Bill Clinton was elected governor of Arkansas in 1978. Hillary Clinton continued working at Rose Law Firm, making her the initial first lady of Arkansas to hold a job while her husband was governor.
When Bill Clinton won the presidency in 1992, Hillary Clinton took a more involved role in the White House than was typical for a first lady, for which she was at times criticized. Bill Clinton named her to lead his Task Force on National Health Care Reform, a plan that would soon earn the moniker Hillary-care. The health care reform was blocked in Congress, a defeat the still stings Clinton.
“It is not whether you get knocked down, it is whether you get back up,” Clinton said in January. “And I have gotten back up time and time and time again because I believe that we all have an opportunity to try to keep going and to help others along the way.”
From senator to secretary
Clinton launched her own political career in 2000 when she announced her candidacy for the United States Senate, something she still says she never thought would happen. She would go on to win that race and subsequent reelection in 2006.
While in the Senate, Clinton released her memoir “Living History,” a book that delved into some of the more sensitive points in Clinton’s life, including her husband’s affair with Monica Lewinsky, a White House intern. The scandal almost sunk Bill Clinton’s presidency.
When she entered the 2008 presidential race, as was the case eight years later, Clinton was widely considered her party’s frontrunner.
But Clinton’s campaign never lived up to the hype. She suffered a stinging loss in Iowa, the-first-in-the-nation caucus, actually finishing third. She bounced back with a win in New Hampshire days later. But the Granite State was the high point of her campaign, an operation defined by some internal dysfunction, staff turnovers and failure to meet expectations.
Clinton formally suspended her presidential campaign in June and endorsed then-Sen. Barack Obama.
“Although we weren’t able to shatter that highest, hardest glass ceiling this time, thanks to you, it’s got about 18 million cracks in it,” Clinton told her supporters.
Obama would go on to win the presidency, with help from Clinton, his former rival. After winning, Obama named Clinton to the top diplomatic post – secretary of state – and the former first lady was confirmed in 2009.
While Clinton traveled almost 1 million miles as secretary of state, her tenure has been overshadowed at times by the 2012 terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya, where four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens, were killed. Clinton has taken responsibility for the deaths, but Republicans – with some success – have sought to seize on the issue to score political points.
Fighting to win
Much like in 2008, Clinton entered 2016 as the prohibitive favorite for the Democratic nomination.
Although Clinton has been in the public eye for three decades, Clinton’s friends affectionately refer to the former first lady, senator and secretary of state as “one of the most unknown well-known people” in the world.
Clinton aides looked to rectify that at the start of the campaign, holding small events where she could talk to “everyday Americans” and show a softer side.
But after a handful of stumbles and with nagging questions and inquiries into her use of a private email server as secretary of state, Clinton finds herself in a tighter-than-expected race with Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders for the nomination.
Several Democrats close to the campaign, particularly in Bill Clinton’s orbit and among donors, have acknowledged discontent within the operation and feel the campaign was too slow to recognize the threat posed by the Vermont senator.
Sanders has harnessed anger among the liberal base and has used his substantial online fundraising prowess to fund an upstart campaign that has exceeded even his expectations.
Clinton, for her part, has tried to stress her progressive credentials and her record of delivering results.