Hillary Clinton Plans Campaign Kickoff on Sunday

After months of planning her campaign, the former first lady, senator, and secretary of state is about to hit the trail as an official candidate.

Hillary Clinton, former U.S. secretary of state, speaks during the DreamForce Conference in San Francisco, California, U.S., on Tuesday, Oct. 14, 2014.

Photographer: Noah Berger/Bloomberg

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton officially plans to launch her bid to become the nation’s first female president on Sunday.

Two people familiar with the Clinton team's plans confirmed to Bloomberg that she will make the initial announcement in a video on Sunday. Clinton will then head to Iowa and later New Hampshire, one of the sources said. Her official spokespeople would not confirm or deny the timing or other news organizations' reports. 

There won’t be a big rally or a sweeping speech once she gets to Iowa, though. Her advisers have made clear that she wants to start off with more personal events, where she can hear directly from voters and emphasize the kind and funny personality that comes through when she’s in more intimate settings.

The announcement is a long-awaited step for the former first lady and New York senator, 67, who has spent several months building a campaign team and plotting a path to the presidency aimed at avoiding the missteps of her 2008 bid. She enters the race an unprecedented frontrunner, facing little immediate competition from Democrats and leading all likely Republican hopefuls in national and swing state polling.

While voter demographics favor her, sentiments may not. Voters will have to decide three major questions: whether they want another Democrat in the White House following President Barack Obama's two terms; if they want that Democrat to be another Clinton; and if they want to elect the first female commander-in-chief. She will have to manage a delicate balancing act, titrating her general support of the current administration to appeal to Americans who disagree with or are disappointed in Obama.

Even so, she starts off with a dramatic edge and no one Democrat poised to enter the race who could foist upon her an Obama-like threat.

The Democrat who does best against her in most polls is Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, who has repeatedly said she is not running. Vice President Joe Biden continues to keep his options open for a run but has not built up any of the infrastructure necessary for a campaign. Former Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley, former Virginia Senator Jim Webb, and Senator Bernie Sanders have flirted with a run for the White House, but are extreme long shots, drawing support in the low single digits.

Despite her clear advantages, Clinton has a rough 19 months ahead. She’ll be dogged by opponents on the record she's built over nearly a quarter-century on the national stage, from her role in the Whitewater and cattle futures trading controversies to her track record during four years at the State Department, including her reliance on a private e-mail account and her management of the response to the 2012 attack on Americans in Benghazi, Libya.

She'll also face continued questions about the Clinton Foundation's ties to foreign donors during and after her time in the administration.

Her husband, former President Bill Clinton, 68, will likely be both an asset and a liability, a masterful campaigner and strategist, but also someone with a history of veering off message and creating problems for his wife.

Insiders say this campaign will better merge the spheres of the two Clintons than her team did in 2008; campaign chairman John Podesta is adept at managing both of them, and the former president's chief of staff, Tina Flournoy, has close ties to Hillaryland.

The former president intends to stay out of his wife's way, at least through the early stages of the race. "I think it's important, and Hillary does too, that she go out there as if she's never run for anything before and establish her connection with the voters," he said in a recent interview with Town & Country magazine. "And that my role should primarily be as a backstage adviser to her until we get much, much closer to the election."

The former president's activities and associations since leaving the White House could also kick up challenges. His ties to Jeffrey Epstein, the financier who pled guilty in 2008 to soliciting sex from a minor, are being examined especially closely by Clinton allies and opponents, as well as by journalists. 

The biggest wild card could be the health issues of the former and perhaps future first couple. In addition to managing some of the typical issues that people in their late 60s face, Hillary Clinton has a decades-old blood clotting problem that has twice led to her hospitalization, most recently after a late 2012 fall. She suffered a concussion from which it took her months to recover.

Bill Clinton had quadruple bypass surgery in 2004 and had two stents implanted in 2010. He sometimes has a hand tremor, though he said in 2013 that he's been tested for but does not have Parkinson's disease.

To prepare for all the unexpected obstacles, Clinton has crafted a plan that aims to correct for many of the problems of her last campaign, in strategy, tactics and staffing.

Campaign manager Robby Mook is a masterful organizer with a deep focus on data, and he and Podesta are both known as skilled jugglers of the many priorities and personalities in the Clinton orbit. The posturing and infighting of her 2008 team would never be tolerated by the new leaders, hopeful supporters say.

All too aware of the lessons of 2008, Clinton is wary of embracing her frontrunner status and is determined to show that she’s working to earn each and every vote. In place of the in “it to win it” mentality of the early stages of Clinton’s previous campaign–when she was the clear, if not so dominant, frontrunner–she and her team are stressing a new mantra: take nothing for granted. Even without a direct Democratic threat on the horizon, she’ll spend much of this year retail politicking her way through the diners, rec centers and living rooms of New Hampshire, Iowa, and other key states.

Her political team includes a mix of longtime advisers and outsiders, many of whom worked for Obama's presidential campaigns. Her top strategist is Joel Benenson, who is also one of her pollsters, along with John Anzalone and David Binder. Mandy Grunwald is advising on communications strategy and advertising, and will work with Jim Margolis, who will lead ad making and buying.

Clinton's campaign is determined to have a better relationship with the press than it did in 2008. Communications director Jennifer Palmieri, who did the same job in the Obama White House until last month, is leading a team that has made clear it aims to be constructive and professional in working with journalists. 

In addition to the dozens that Clinton has already hired who are streaming into her 80,000 square foot headquarters in Brooklyn, she has also begun hiring senior and mid-level staffers in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Nevada. Many of the staffers have extensive experience in the states in which they’re working and have already collaborated with each other. Her team in New Hampshire includes several people who worked together on Sen. Jeanne Shaheen’s 2014 campaign, while her South Carolina staff includes a handful of alumni of Rep. James Clyburn’s team.

Daughter Chelsea Clinton, 35, has the potential to help reach out to younger voters and has given her mother something she didn't have eight years ago: Charlotte, born in September. Clinton has quickly taken to mentioning her granddaughter when discussing her vision for the future and her views on education. 

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