Monday is the end of the beginning for Hillary Clinton.
After a busy month of paid and unpaid appearances across the country, capped by two speeches at the beginning of this week, the next item on Clinton's public schedule is likely to be an announcement that she's running for president.
Clinton will speak at two events Monday, one at an event for the Center for American Progress and AFSCME, and another at the ceremony for the Toner Prize for Excellence in Political Reporting. These speeches, both unpaid, are the final acts of Clinton's two-plus years since leaving the State Department, when she also wrote and promoted a memoir and campaigned for Democrats across the country in 2014.
If you haven't been paying attention, now's the time to tune in: Clinton's team is looking to launch the campaign in early April, just weeks away, at which point she will begin to publicly outline the message and rationale behind her long-expected White House run.
"The announcement is one of those linchpin moments in a campaign where you have the opportunity to lay out the theory for your candidacy," said Chris Lehane, a Democratic strategist and former White House aide to Bill Clinton. "It is an especially important moment because with HRC having a relatively clear primary field, she can begin talking to the country while the Republicans are in an endless fight waged somewhere between the extreme right and far right."
Though her campaign theme isn't yet clear, Clinton has offered hints in recent speeches. She has spoken frequently about women's issues such as equal pay, affordable child care, and family leave policies. She has told personal stories and talked up her new role as a grandmother. She has stressed the importance of "building relationships" and fostering compromise in Washington. And she has decried Republicans' focus on "trickle-down economics."
Clinton's announcement also will give her campaign the opportunity to answer questions about where it will devote its early time and resources. At this point, it looks as though Clinton will face minimal Democratic primary opposition, but the Associated Press reported last week that Clinton's team is still planning a strong focus on four traditional early primary states—Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Nevada—where Democratic activists are eager to hear from the frontrunner for their party's presidential nomination.
Early-state operatives say they expect Clinton to visit early and often once the campaign is officially underway. "Let's say she were to announce for president on a Tuesday in New York and then she doesn't come to Iowa or the other early states" right away, said Iowa-based Democratic strategist Norm Sterzenbach. "I think that would rub people the wrong way."
Sterzenbach said that Clinton's moves so far, including her hiring of Iowa political hand Matt Paul (a longtime aide to Clinton ally and former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack) to head a state team of up to 40 people, give the impression that she has learned from mistakes from the 2008 campaign. "I would expect that they are aware of that challenge and that they will be in Iowa very quickly after she announces, and then probably build a schedule out from there," he said.
Three of those four early states also are general-election battlegrounds, so even without a competitive primary, Clinton will be laying the groundwork for the fall of 2016. But she also could focus attention on other swing states like Ohio early on with the odds of a primary threat looking slim.