Ending two years of speculation, Hillary Rodham Clinton announced her second campaign for president in a low-key Web video Sunday with a simple message: It's not about me. It's about you."
"Americans need a champion, and I want to be that champion," Clinton said, striking the tone of populism at the heart of the 2016 campaign. "The deck is still stacked in favor of those at the top."
The former first lady, U.S. senator, and secretary of state begins as the overwhelming front-runner for the Democratic nomination. If she makes it back to the White House, Clinton would be the first woman elected president.
Clinton was considered inevitable eight years ago, too, only to lose to then-U.S. Sen. Barack Obama, and she was quick to signal that she was taking nothing for granted. "I'm hitting the road to earn your vote — because it's your time," she says in the video.
The spot features vignettes of an African American couple expecting their first child, a gay couple planning a wedding, two Spanish-speaking brothers getting ready to open a business, an older woman about to retire, a college student looking for her first job — even a young couple hoping to get their dog to stop eating the trash. Clinton does not appear until more than 90 seconds into the video, which is just over two minutes long.
The video was posted to Facebook, the new Clinton campaign website, and released on Twitter moments after adviser John Podesta broke the news in an e-mail to supporters.
Republicans have been attacking Clinton in general-election terms for months, criticizing her record as secretary of state and arguing that she would represent the third term of the Obama administration.
"Americans need a president they can trust," GOP chairman Reince Priebus said Sunday. "Over decades as a Washington insider, Clinton has left a trail of secrecy, scandal, and failed policies. … The Clintons believe they can play by a different set of rules."
Hillary Clinton has seen her poll numbers decline recently after revelations that she used a private e-mail server while secretary of state, deleting e-mails she said were not related to government business. She also has faced controversy over news that the Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton Foundation has raised money from foreign governments, including Saudi Arabia.
Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, a candidate for the GOP nomination, on Sunday blasted Clinton for taking money from Saudi Arabia, which restricts the rights of women and girls.
"I would expect Hillary Clinton, if she believes in women's rights, she should be calling for a boycott of Saudi Arabia," Paul said on NBC's Meet the Press. "Instead, she's accepting tens of millions of dollars."
Hillary Clinton resigned from the foundation board Sunday, CNN reported.
A sizable chunk of liberal Democrats has been hoping for a more progressive candidate to challenge Clinton, with many trying to urge Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren to take her on. Warren has declined. These intraparty critics say Clinton is too close to Wall Street and unlikely to take bold steps to reverse income and wealth inequality.
A few Democrats, including former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley, former Virginia Sen. Jim Webb, and Lincoln Chafee, the former Rhode Island senator and governor, have been considering challenges.
Seventy-two percent of Democrats and independents in a Bloomberg Politics poll released Friday said it would be "a good thing" if Clinton faced serious competition for her party's nomination.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, who ran Clinton's 2000 campaign for the U.S. Senate, told Meet the Press he was holding off on an endorsement because he wants to see what her vision will be.
"It's time to see a clear, bold vision for progressive economic change," de Blasio said.
Chafee, during an appearance Sunday on CNN- 's State of the Union, blasted Clinton's 2002 vote as a senator to authorize the Iraq war. "If you show lack of judgment … then, what can we expect in the future?" he said.
Clinton will hold her first campaign events Tuesday and Wednesday in Iowa, and then will travel to New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Nevada — the states with the earliest nomination contests. Advisers say that in a deliberate departure from 2008, Clinton will give fewer speeches to large crowds and instead will spend time with smaller groups of voters in more intimate settings like homes and coffee shops. She also will cut down on the size of her traveling party.
Many voters said eight years ago they felt distant from Clinton, one of the most famous people in the world.
"She's going to try to emphasize retail politicking," said Philadelphia lawyer Alan Kessler, a fund-raiser for Clinton in 2008 (and for the former president before that) and who is ready to line up donations for this campaign.
"If you ask some of us who know Hillary, she is spectacular when you get her in small groups and one-on-one meetings," Kessler said.
While the Clinton team calibrates her branding and approach to campaigning, the tides of history are much harder to control. If she wins the Democratic nomination, she will have to persuade voters to give her party control of the White House for a third straight term — a hard sell in modern times.
It has happened only once in the last 65 years, when Republican Vice President George H.W. Bush was elected to succeed Ronald Reagan in 1988.