For Hillary Clinton, name recognition is both a blessing and a curse. 

The former secretary of state--and, as of Sunday, a presidential candidate for the second time--has been in the public eye since serving as the first lady of Arkansas, when her husband Bill Clinton was governor of the state. She also has arguably stronger brand awareness than even the likely Republican presidential front-runner Jeb Bush, whose father and brother were both U.S. presidents. But that doesn't mean selling herself to the American public will be easy.

She'll need to define how her presidency will be different from President Obama's, while continuing on in some of the same populist directions. Similarly, she'll need to prove that she's attuned to the needs of the middle class--a feat sure to be difficult, as critics point to her ties to Wall Street and other big business interests. And for any business owner watching her campaign, Clinton will have to answer questions about what she'll do on a variety of issues including taxes, health care, free trade, and immigration.

"Her problem is to remind people of her strengths and how her strengths are what the country needs right now," says Robert Shapiro, an economic adviser to former President Bill Clinton and to Hillary Clinton when she was in the Senate, and a senior policy scholar at Georgetown's Center for Business and Public Policy.

In recent days, New York mayor Bill de Blasio, who served as an adviser during Clinton's successful Senate bid in 2000, suggested she focus on income inequality on the campaign trail. For his part, de Blasio won the mayorship of New York City by championing the cause--calling for an end to New York's "Tale of Two Cities." 

Jim Kessler, senior vice president for policy and co-founder of Third Way, a centrist policy think tank in Washington, D.C.,  echoes those comments: "For voters, the biggest conversation and the biggest concern is that the best days for them, their kids, and their communities may be in the past," he says. "Her campaign has to be about answering that question, and making people feel there is a growth opportunity for them."

Business creation and entrepreneurship are critical supports for the middle class, policy experts say. So areas the Clinton campaign may ultimately focus on include closing corporate loopholes, repatriating cash from overseas, lowering taxes for the middle class, and raising the minimum wage.

Clinton's husband presided over a bipartisan tax cut in 1997 that lowered the marginal rate for the middle class, and raised the capital gains tax. The tax cut expanded tax-advantaged accounts for workers, and provided tax incentives for business investment in blighted areas, as well as for hiring disadvantaged workers.

While no one is suggesting a return to the policies of the 1990s, Clinton certainly comes from this milieu and may update some of those ideas. She may also try to address the skills gap of U.S. workers by pushing for educational incentives, such as free tuition for some kinds of college education, as President Obama has proposed.

Clinton, who grew up in Chicago, attended Wellesley College and earned a law degree at Yale in 1973. As first lady of the United States, she was a guiding force behind President Clinton's own failed attempt to pass comprehensive health care reform in the early 1990s, ridiculed at the time as "Hillarycare." She is the only first lady to have ever run successfully for political office, becoming the first female senator from New York in 2001. She is also the second female secretary of state, a post she held from 2009 until 2013.

In addition to Republican candidates Ted Cruz and Rand Paul, who have already announced their plans for presidential runs, Clinton will be upstaging Marco Rubio, the junior senator from Florida, who is expected to announce his run on Monday.

Clinton will face some Democratic challengers as well. Although none have announced, they are likely to include former Maryland governor Martin O'Malley, former Virginia senator Jim Webb, and Bernard Sanders, the junior senator from Vermont.

Besides her political prowess and name-brand recognition, Clinton's advantage over the as-yet all-male slate of presidential hopefuls is her gender. While Clinton may not poll as well as Obama has with young and minority voters, she will grab the interest of female voters, political observers say.

"And she will need the women's vote in this election," says Bill Whalen, a research fellow specializing in California and national politics at the Hoover Institution.

Published on: Apr 10, 2015