Already, recent words and actions hint at the ways she'll bring gender into the 2016 campaign—by talking about issues like pay equity, affordable child care, and paid family leave, referencing her past work for women and children, and gushing about her new granddaughter.
That soft approach will be coupled with a sharp-edged assault by supporting organizations outside of her camp. Some of them, including EMILY's List and the Democratic National Committee, have begun playing offense against the Republican field, painting many of the 2016 GOP hopefuls as anti-woman.
"A lot of things have changed since 2008, and I think that will elevate in some ways the gender aspect of her campaign," said Celinda Lake, an unaffiliated Democratic pollster who has done extensive research on female candidates running for office. "There are many ways in which there's a woman's lens to her candidacy even if she never mentions the word 'woman.'"
All of this underscores just how important Democrats think female voters, especially unmarried women, will be in determining which party wins the White House in 2016. In 2012, President Obama won women by a 12-point margin over Republican Mitt Romney—the largest gender gap in pollster Gallup's history, and a fact that played a big role in his victory that November. Democrats hope to maintain that edge among female voters in 2016, especially with a woman on the top of the ticket.
Clinton supporters expect her to incorporate gender into her message partially through tone and storytelling, opening up and sharing the kind of personal experiences that will help her connect with female voters.
Making that easier, Lake said, one of the important differences from the 2008 cycle is the rise to prominence of a concrete set of issues typically associated with female voters: health care access, abortion rights, pay equity, and paid sick and family leave. "It's not about simply being a woman—it's about a focus on women and families," said Marcy Stech, spokeswoman for EMILY's List, a group that backs candidates who support abortion rights. "There are no better candidates to talk about these issues than women themselves, who understand what women are going through day in and day out."
Plus, Clinton has held new roles since 2008 that give her an ample supply of anecdotes from which to draw, first as secretary of State, a job in which she emphasized improving rights for women and girls worldwide, and second as a grandmother. Clinton made frequent reference to her granddaughter in speeches on the midterm campaign trail last fall, saying the baby had helped her think more about what Charlotte "can look forward to" when she grows up.
"With the grandmother lens, I think you kind of talk about exactly that: wisdom, caring, holding people together, holding the family together, and holding the country together," said Adrienne Kimmell, executive director of the Barbara Lee Family Foundation, which conducts research on female candidates running for executive offices. "It evokes all sorts of those feelings and that kind of imagery."