MIAMI – Hillary Rodham Clinton launched her long-awaited 2016 presidential campaign with a Sunday social media post announcing her return to politics, after a two-year leave from government.
If elected, Clinton would become the nation's first female president. Clinton said she will first seek the Democratic Party's nomination and then the presidency again. Her reasoning echoed the new epilogue released Friday to the paperback version of her State Department memoirs, "Hard Choices."
The former U.S. state secretary, U.S. senator and first lady -- advising former President Bill Clinton for eight years -- writes about the joy of becoming a grandmother for the first time. Their granddaughter, Charlotte Clinton Mezvinsky, was born in September.
"Becoming a grandmother has made me think deeply about the responsibility we all share as stewards of the world we inherit and will one day pass on," Clinton wrote in the epilogue, published by The Huffington Post. "Rather than make me want to slow down, it has spurred me to speed up."
Clinton's race is expected to cost more than the $1 billion Obama raised for his 2012 re-election. Her top fundraisers were aggressively reaching out to thousands of donors over the weekend. As soon as the Clinton campaign web site is live, aides said she is expected to focus on online fundraising. There will be a cap of $2,700 per donor and she is likely to avoid wooing wealthy donors at high-priced fundraisers.
Her 2008 presidential committee has a zero balance and her Senate committee has $158,000 in reserves, but counts on super-PAC "Priorities USA Action" and "Ready for Hillary" with 222 donors who gave $25,000. Campaign finance lawyers said the super-PAC can't coordinate with Clinton, but it could share its list of supporters. Dennis Cheng, her fundraising director, will be creating a small-donor network similar to the Obama campaign's list from his 2008 and 2012 campaigns.
"All the horses are in the gate just waiting for those gates to open" prominent Florida donor John Morgan told The Washington Post. "That's how I describe the fundraising efforts. There's really nothing to do until the gate opens." The gate opened Sunday and Morgan said "it could be the flood gate. The only issue they'll have is how fast can they raise the money."
Her team hired several of Obama's top campaign strategists and dozens of staffers. They also and leased office space for her national campaign headquarters in Brooklyn, N.Y. Democratic advisers said her go-slow, go-small strategy will have her meeting voters in intimate settings, where her humility, humor and policy expertise can show through.
Her campaign will present her "as a very warm, genuine, thoughtful, certainly intelligent, regular person," former New York Democratic Party chairman told The Washington Post. "There's been so much that we've seen that seems to create an image, by the press and by others, those who are looking to derail her, but now the voters are going to hear from Hillary and they're going to see Hillary."
According to sources familiar with her schedule, she plans to make stops in key early voting states, including campaigning heavily in Iowa and New Hampshire. She hopes to avoid making the stumbles she made in the 2008 Iowa caucuses, which President Barack Obama won in an upset.
Davenport, Iowa, Mayor Bill Gluba, a Democrat elected in a non-partisan election who backed Obama in 2008, said Clinton "kind of blew it last time" in the nation's first caucus state. According to national polls, she was 20 points ahead of other Democrats.
"She's a very decent wonderful woman, but sometimes they come out of the New York atmosphere and they're surrounded by staff and they're insulated. We don't want to see that," said Gluba, who recently had lunch with former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley, who is also considering a campaign.
Clinton appears unlikely to face a stiff primary opponent, though a handful of lower-profile Democrats have said they are considering their own campaigns. Some may include former Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee, former Virginia Sen. Jim Webb and Vice President Joe Biden.
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Her campaign will be required to release its first fundraising report in July to examine the strength of her support.
Should she win the nomination, Clinton would face the winner of a Republican primary season that could feature as many as two dozen candidates. Among them, Sen. Rand Paul, Sen. Ted Cruz and Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush. Sen. Marco Rubio is expected to formally announce his campaign in Miami at the iconic Freedom Tower on Monday.
With tickets costing as much as $100,000 each, Bush has been crisscrossing the country to attend private fundraisers for his "Right to Rise" political action committee and super PAC. In contrast, Morgan said Clinton is likely to be in Iowa eating corn on the cob instead of clinking champagne flutes with donors.
GOP: SHE IS 'UNTRUSTWORTHY'
Clinton's announcement was preceded by Republicans' criticism over her use of a personal e-mail account and server, while she was Secretary of State, as well as the Clinton Foundation's acceptance of donations from foreign governments. She said that she used the account for convenience.
Republicans reviewing the 2012 attack on a U.S. facility in Benghazi, which took place during her tenure at the State Department, are investigating her decision to delete emails she has deemed personal in nature.
During a New York Magazine interview in 2013 Clinton responded to the accusations:
"The fact is we had four dead Americans. Was it because of a protest or was it because of guys out for walk one night who decided they'd go kill some Americans? What difference at this point does it make? It is our job to figure out what happened and to prevent it from ever happening again."
"Rubio, Bush, that whole crowd is in mortal combat for dollars," Morgan told The Washington Post. "She's not. That's her advantage."
Clinton was at the University of Miami with her daughter, Chelsea Clinton, March 7, in Coral Gables, for a Clinton Global Initiative. During her speech she said the fight for equality continues and the world is counting on young people to lead the way.
"We've gotten more women to contribute to the economic well beings of their families, but they are by no means where they should be," she said during the event.
Republicans have been preparing for a second Clinton campaign since she left Obama's administration in early 2013. They intend to campaign against her by equating her potential presidency to that of a "third" Obama term, during which they argue she would continue his most unpopular policies.
"From the East Wing to the State Department, Hillary Clinton has left a trail of secrecy, scandal and failed liberal policies that no image consultant can erase," RNC Chairman Reince Priebus told the Washington Post in a statement. "Voters want to elect someone they can trust and Hillary's record proves that she cannot be trusted.
"We must 'Stop Hillary'"
Republicans "#StopHillary" Campaign
LOCAL 10 NEWS CONTRIBUTORS: The Washington Post's Anne Gearan, Dan Balz and Matea Gold contributed to this report. The Associated Press' Julie Pace, Ken Thomas and Catherine Lucey also contributed to this report.