Hillary Clinton for president: low-key high-tech announcement a sign of dominance

Hillary Clinton needed no hoopla to announce her candidacy for the Democratic nomination for the next US presidential election.

In lieu of a stage and a sea of supporters, of a rock anthem and a shower of streamers and balloons, there was just a mid-afternoon tweet and an online video.

“I’m running for president. Everyday Americans need a champion, and I want to be that champion,” she said via Twitter a few minutes before 2pm Eastern Time in the US, accompanied by a two-minute online video.Those who had been waiting for the announcement had expected it earlier and were beginning to get snarky when it came.

During its Sunday morning political coverage, CNN had sniped in an on-screen caption: “Clinton campaign grinds to a start.”The determinedly low-key and high-tech announcement was the surest sign yet of her dominance in the race.

Mrs Clinton did not need to either introduce herself or draw attention to her candidacy with a large event.

Instead she wanted to convince supporters that rather than awaiting a coronation, she was willing to knuckle down and fight for votes as though this were any other primary race.

It is not.

At this stage in the campaign Mrs Clinton dominates potential Democratic rivals more than any other candidate has in modern history.

The Real Clear Politics poll average shows that she has 59.8 per cent support compared with Senator Elizabeth Warren, who is not running and sits at 12.2 per cent, and Vice-President Joe Biden, who might run and has 11.5 per cent. The only other candidates who show any real sign that they may eventually throw their hats into the ring are Martin O’Malley and Jim Webb, who have 1.2 per cent each.

Normally it is said that Republicans fall in line with the will of the party’s establishment, while Democrats fall in love.

This time the reverse is true. The Republican field of announced and presumed candidates is – to the chagrin of the Republican National Committee – vast and varied.

But even when matched against the strongest Republicans – Jeb Bush and Governor Scott Walker – Mrs Clinton leads by 7.4 per cent and 8.2 per cent respectively, according to RCP. No one presumes this lead will last unchallenged, but it has its obvious advantages.

As a candidate with the stature of an incumbent she can control the field of debate.

Going by the perky campaign video released on Sunday, Mrs Clinton wants the campaign to be focused on economic inequality.

“Americans have fought their way back from tough economic times, but the deck is still stacked in favour of those at the top,” says Mrs Clinton.

And her years as first lady, senator and secretary of state have left Mrs Clinton with a powerful political machine, one which expects to raise and spend a staggering US$2.5 billion ($3.2 billion) between now and November 2016.

But it also gives her a long record to defend. Many in her own party view her as too hawkish and too closely linked to Wall Street – hence the constant calls from the left for Senator Warren to run.

And it has left her with a reputation of being controlling to the point of paranoia and secretive. She fed this line of attack herself by maintaining her own personal email system as secretary of state.

And while US President Barack Obama remains reasonably popular – and immensely popular among Democrats – his foreign policy remains a weak point, one that Mrs Clinton will rightly face criticism for, especially by Republican opponents.

That process has already started. The RNC is hoping to protect its broad field and unify supporters by focusing their attacks on Mrs Clinton rather than on one another.

The Republicans have been at war with the Clinton family political machine for a generation now, and they have so far failed to win a single significant battle.

Her presence will help to focus some of that rage. Even as she announced her candidacy attendees at National Rifle Association were cheering the rock star Ted Nugent who was calling for her to be jailed over the email scandal.

Further, Mrs Clinton’s 2008 campaign was marked by infighting and a hostile relationship with the press, which it felt favoured the Obama campaign.

It is clear that this time the Hillary machine appears to be trying to improve that relationship.

On Thursday night last week many of the reporters and editors who will be working on the campaign were at dinner at the home of her new campaign chairman, John Podesta, when news broke on Business Insider that she would announce on Sunday.

Then there is the issue of Bill Clinton. Despite the scandals of his presidency, he left office as one of the most popular presidents of the modern era, and he remains so with a current approval rating of 56 per cent.

But his outsize presence might also prove to be a liability, as it did in parts of the 2008 campaign, both because he sometimes outshone the candidate, and because he could not always be kept on-message by the campaign itself.

Such are his political skills it is sometimes said that he is like nuclear energy, very good in small doses, but potentially catastrophic.

On Monday, Marco Rubio will announce his campaign to fanfare in front of Miami’s Freedom Tower. He is expected to put up a serious fight against Jeb Bush, who will announce in the coming days.

Though the federal election is more than 18 months away, the campaign is now on.

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