Hillary Clinton is up and running.

It came as no great surprise to anybody when Hillary Rodham Clinton announced on Saturday that she is entering the Democratic presidential race. Ms. Clinton is a front-runner from the start, partly because she gained a lot of experience when husband Bill was in the White House, and partly because she has shown herself to be a smooth operator in her own right. Her Senate record is, most agree, impressive and she has surrounded herself with advisers who know what they are doing and how to do it. According to observers, she is a disciplined campaigner with a good grasp of the nuts and bolts of domestic and foreign policy. No doubt a reputed $14 million fighting fund, and the proven ability to raise many more millions, also helps into the very strong position.

However, as today’s Washington Post editorial writer points out, Ms Clinton, strong though her position may be, is by no means guaranteed her party’s candidate.

But if Ms. Clinton begins with formidable assets, she also faces formidable challenges. One involves the Democratic base and its unhappiness with her position on the war in Iraq. Unlike Mr.Obama (the other early contender K.C.) who wasn’t in the Senate at the time but made his opposition clear, Ms. Clinton voted to authorize the war; she has been more reluctant than some of her Democratic rivals, most notably the 2004 vice presidential nominee, John Edwards, to renounce that backing or to call for immediate departure of the troops. “I am cursed with the responsibility gene,” Ms. Clinton told the New York Times in an interview upon returning from Iraq last week. “You’ve got to be very careful in how you proceed with any combat situation in which American lives are at stake.”

More than a little self-serving, perhaps, but Ms. Clinton’s approach is, in fact, more responsible than those of some of her opponents. While this is good policy, it could be risky politics, especially in states that hold early primaries.A second and somewhat contradictory issue for primary voters is the matter of Ms. Clinton’s “electability”: Is she such a polarizing figure, with such high negatives (44 percent in the latest Washington Post-ABC News poll, compared with 29 percent for Mr. Obama) that she would be at a disadvantage in the fall campaign? The question about Hillary Clinton may be not so much whether a woman can win the presidency but whether this woman can.

It is early days yet, but given that but given thata poll carried out by CNN some seven months ago yielded similar results as the Washington Post- ABC report, it will be interesting to see what happens as the Clinton campaign gathers momentum.


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