Hillary Rodham Clinton announced her candidacy for president Sunday, entering the race with universal name recognition, undisputed smarts and a record of hard work and competence. Nonetheless, she knows as well as anyone that her road to the White House will not be easy.
In 2016, Democrats will have controlled the presidency for eight years, and many voters will think it is time for a change. Should Ms Clinton win her party's nomination, as now seems likely, she will have to promise such change, differentiating herself from President Obama even though she served in his administration - and doing so without alienating his admirers. Al Gore provided a vivid demonstration of how to fail at this balancing act in 2000, even when the departing president was relatively popular.
To pull it off, Ms Clinton will have to articulate a programme that shows she is not just a capable and dedicated administrator but also a leader with a clear governing philosophy that fits the times. In a video released Sunday, Ms Clinton promised a forward-looking agenda, saying that she would be a champion for families struggling to get by. But she gave no indication of how she would change an economy that she said, echoing Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), is stacked against ordinary Americans.
Adding substance to the slogans will prove challenging for several reasons. Democrats have implemented much of their agenda during the Obama years, most notably on health-care coverage, financial regulation, gay rights and climate change, leaving the party's policy shelf a little bare. Entrenching and defending the gains against attempted Republican rollback will be an important mission of Ms Clinton's presidency, if she is elected, but no one gets elected by promising to play defence.
Then there is the politically perilous divide within the Democratic Party. On inequality and other domestic issues, there are pragmatists who favour incremental progress and ideologues who demand a much broader expansion of government, Democrats who emphasize economic growth and others who put more weight on redistribution. And there are no easy answers to problems caused in part by globalization and technological change.
On foreign policy, meanwhile, Ms Clinton has suggested that she favours somewhat more assertive US leadership than Mr. Obama has provided, but strong currents in the party oppose military spending and any other whiff of hawkishness.
Many voters will jump at an opportunity to elect the United States' first female president, crossing a barrier that other nations traversed long ago. Many also are drawn to what they see as Ms Clinton's indomitable spirit. But other Americans - or, in some cases, the same Americans - will feel weary at the familiarity of the Clintons and their circle. Ms Clinton's inexcusable lack of accountability with official e-mails during her tenure as secretary of state has reinforced such negative feelings.
Ms Clinton is arguably the best-prepared candidate in either party. She is her own brand, the only star the Democrats have, and thus far it seems she will face relatively light primary opposition. That creates political risks - that she will run a defensive campaign, interacting with the media as little as possible and failing to define herself for voters. But it provides an opportunity, too, to make a clear case for why she wants to be president and what she would hope to accomplish. -The Washington Post