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Clinton Determined to Become First Woman Elected US President

U.S. Senator Hillary Clinton continues to lead the field of candidates seeking the Democratic Party's nomination for president. Stressing her background and experience, she is determined to become the first woman elected to the White House. VOA's Deborah Tate has this profile.

Hillary Clinton needs no introduction.

A former first lady, twice elected senator from New York, she is now determined win her campaign for the White House. She proclaims, "I'm in it to win it".

Clinton was a particularly activist first lady during her husband's two terms in the White House. Larry Sabato, who directs the University of Virginia's Center for Politics, says this makes her a formidable candidate "She was, for all practical purposes, co-president and everyone knows that. So in a sense, she is running for a third term. As an incumbent within the Democratic Party structure - as the establishment candidate - as the candidate of the Clinton organization - she is a clear, strong favorite to win the nomination."

But despite her frontrunner status, some, including those in her own party, question whether she can win in a general election. Senators historically have not succeeded in their bids for the presidency.

Senator Clinton has a reputation as a very polarizing figure. Polls show she has the highest negatives of any presidential candidate of either party. Such high negative ratings stem in large part from her years in the White House.

She headed a White House task force to reform the U.S. health care system. "Something is wrong with our health care system and it needs to be fixed," she said at the time. But the plan failed to win congressional support amid criticism that it was too complex and bureaucratic.

Clinton also came under fire for her role in the controversial Whitewater land deal. She became the first first lady to be subpoenaed to testify before a federal grand jury as a result of the scandal.

Later, she weathered the controversy surrounding President Clinton's highly publicized affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky and his subsequent impeachment for lying to Congress.

She received both criticism and sympathy for her decision to stand by her husband.

All these controversies could have an impact her White House campaign, according to Larry Sabato. "There is the scandal factor. A lot of people don't want to go back. They don't want to relive those scandals. They don't want new ones."

But her somewhat rocky years as first lady stand in stark contrast to her years in the Senate, which have been marked by a steady, centrist voting record.

Her vote to authorize military intervention in Iraq has angered the Democratic Party's liberal base, but she says she takes responsibility for her decision. "I have taken responsibility for my vote, but there are no do-overs in life. I wish there were."

Political analysts say Clinton's experience on the Senate Armed Services Committee and her willingness to cross the political aisle on national security issues could help boost her appeal.

John Fortier is with the American Enterprise Institute. "By emphasizing her experience, she comes across as somebody who is sensible, in the middle, pragmatic, who could handle the reins of power. It probably has not worked out quite as much as she has wanted in that the war has become more polarizing, and has drawn her more to the left than what she would have liked."

Fortier and other analysts say Clinton is waging a sophisticated campaign. She is not only trying to win her party's nomination by appealing to its liberal base, she is also seemingly running a general election campaign aimed at pre-empting possible Republican attacks if she veers too far to the left.

Such a strategy was on display when Clinton responded to a question during a recent Democratic presidential debate in Chicago. "I want the Democrats to win and I want a united Democratic Party that will stand against the Republicans and I will say that, for 15 years, I've stood up against the right-wing machine and I've come out stronger, so if you want a winner who knows how to take them on, I'm your girl."

It's an expression of confidence from the first first lady elected to the U.S. Senate who now wants to make history again by becoming the first woman elected to the White House.