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Clinton Seeks to Become First Woman 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 a profile.

Hillary Clinton, a former first lady and twice-elected senator from New York, is determined to succeed in her campaign for the White House.

CLINTON: "I am in it to win it!"

Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia's Center for Politics, says Clinton was a particularly activist first lady during her husband's two terms in the White House, and that makes her a formidable candidate.

"She was for all practical purposes co-president and everyone knows that," he said. "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 also has a reputation as a very polarizing figure, stemming in large part from her years in the White House.

One of her most controversial roles was as the head of a White House task force to reform the U.S. health care system.

"I know from my own experiences and the conversations I have been privileged to have with thousands of our fellow citizens across this country that something is wrong with our health care system and that it needs to be fixed," she said.

But the plan failed to win congressional support amid criticism it was too bureaucratic and complex.

Clinton also came under fire for her role in the controversial Whitewater land deal, and later weathered scandals surrounding political fundraising and President Clinton's highly publicized affair with intern Monica Lewinsky.

Larry Sabato says the controversies of the Clinton administration could impact on the senator's White House campaign.

"A lot of people do not want to go back," he added. "They do not want to relive those scandals. They do not 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 members of the Democratic Party base, but she says she takes responsibility for her decision.

CLINTON: "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.

"By emphasizing her experience, she comes across as somebody who is sensible, in the middle, pragmatic, who could handle the reins of power," said John Fortier of the American Enterprise Institute. "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."

Political observers say Clinton is waging a sophisticated campaign. Not only is she 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 Democratic presidential debate in Chicago:

CLINTON: "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 have stood up against the right-wing machine and I have come out stronger. So if you want a winner who knows how to take them on, I am your girl."

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