Hillary Rodham Clinton
The former first lady acknowledged her plans to take the first step of forming a presidential exploratory committee.
"I'm not just starting a campaign, though. I'm beginning a conversation with you, with America," Clinton says in her web message. She announced that she will be holding live, on-line video conferences with Americans starting Monday.
"Let's talk about how to bring the right end to the war in Iraq, and to restore respect for America around the world," she said.
Clinton's announcement, days after Sen. Barack Obama shook up the contest race with his bid to become the first black president, establishes the most diverse political field ever.
Clinton is considered the front-runner, with Obama and 2004 vice presidential nominee John Edwards as other top contenders. New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, who would be the first Hispanic president, intends to announce his plans on Sunday. Other Democrats seeking the highest office in the land include Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.), Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio). Sen. Joe Biden (D-Del.) is expected to formally announce his candidacy soon.
With millions in the bank, a vast network of supporters and top status in nearly every poll of
Democratic contenders, Clinton is undertaking the most viable effort by a female candidate to capture the White House. Her creation of a presidential exploratory committee allows her to raise money for the campaign; she already has lined up campaign staff. She is the first presidential spouse to pursue the office; her husband, Bill, served two terms in the White House from 1993-2001.
A polarizing figure since she burst onto the national scene during her husband's first presidential campaign, Clinton engenders strong opinions among voters, who either revere or revile her but rarely are ambivalent.
She often is compared to her husband and found lacking in his natural charisma. Others have criticized her for being overly cautious and calculating when so many voters say they crave authenticity. Many Democrats, eager to reclaim the White House after eight years of President Bush, fret that she carries too much baggage from her husband's scandal-plagued presidency to win a general election.
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