Hillary Clinton has been preparing herself to be a presidential candidate longer than anyone else in modern times. She has been following a course of actions that she and Dick Morris worked out in the 1990s. This includes her stint in the Senate and even the sort of committees she has served on. It was important to her to be on the Armed Forced committee in order to establish her credentials as a tough leader who could handle foreign affairs. It is assumed that her most visible votes were calculated as part of this strategy.
Hillary is easily more qualified than her main competition. She has more time in the Senate than Edwards (one term) or Obama (1/3 term). She also has an inside view of how the White House works. Not even her Republican competition can claim that. As First Lady, Hillary had unprecedented power. She interviewed potential cabinet appointees and had veto power over them. She even selected the Attorney General. She has often been referred to has half of Bill's brain.
Hillary has spent years building up her campaign apparatus. She has a full campaign organization complete with rapid-response unit. She has already been courting potential donors and has a campaign fund many times her competitors'. More important, she likely has access to George Soros and his shadow organizations. In 2004, the Soros-affiliated organizations, headed by former Clinton people, spent more money on the election than the candidate, John Kerry.
For all of this Hillary has some significant negatives. Her name recognition has peaked. She has been in the public eye for 15 years. While she leads the polls, this might be due to name recognition more than anything else.
The last two Democrats to win the presidency were southern governors who ran as Washington outsiders. After eight years in the White House and more than six years in the Senate, Hillary is the ultimate insider. She also abandoned any claim as a southerner when she ran for the Senate from New York. That leaves the outsider roll available for Obama and the Southerner roll for Edwards.
There are real questions about what she actually stands for. Did she vote for the war out of real conviction, was she misled by the President, or was it a cool calculation to make her look stronger? Saturday Night Live did a parody of this saying, "I wouldn't have pretended to care about the war if I had known it would be unpopular." When SNL goes after a Democrat you know that she has screwed up. (In January, 2001, SNL did a dead-on bit about the last few Clinton scandals saying, "What did you expect, we're the Clintons.")
While Hillary's time in the Senate has been scandal-free, there is still a lot in her closet from her years with Bill. Many of the worst Clinton scandals were also linked to her. Whitewater was actually about the possibility that Bill, as governor of Arkansas, tried to use his authority over the banks to minimize his loss in an investment. Hillary's close friend Vince Foster killed himself and his files vanished. Weeks later they appeared in the living quarters of the White House. How could they get into one of the most heavily guarded homes in the world and what was cleaned out of the files before they appeared? In 1993 the White House travel staff was fired and replaced with Clinton campaign workers. There were rumors that Hillary did the firing even though she had no authority to.
Bill and Hillary survived all of these scandals by stonewalling investigators. People went to jail rather than testify about the Clinton's roll.
Then there were Bill's last-minute pardons. A couple of these directly benefited Hillary's relatives. This was also mentioned in the 2001 SNL sketch.
For all her background and experience, Hillary has never actually been in charge of anything larger than the First Lady's staff. Her one attempt at legislation, a monster of a health care bill, died in committee.
Hillary has several personal problems, also. She comes across as cold and humorless and her voice goes shrill when she speaks up. She hasn't lived with her husband in nearly a decade and speculation is that the only reason she is still married to him is politics.
Recently Hillary said, "I've known evil men." The crowd erupted in laughter. She insists that she meant Osama bin Laden. Some on the far left think she meant George Bush. The rest of the country assumed that she meant her husband.
There is a good chance that a new scandal about Bill will come up. He has been seen often with a member of the Canadian Parliament and it is assumed that they are having an affair. The specter of Bill as First Man carrying on with a member of a foreign government will not help Hillary.
Currently Hillary is trying to move to the left in order to make it through the primaries. The anti-Bush left has not forgiven her for voting in favor of the war. She is trying to find a course short of an apology and admission of error that will not hurt her in the general election. So far this has not worked.
Hillary claims to be the best-known person that no one knows. Her campaign is currently based around the idea that people don't know the real Hillary. After 15 years in public it is hard to believe that there is anything more to know. More likely we are asked to be introduced to the new, re-invented Hillary.
In order to minimize her negatives, Hillary is positioning herself as the inevitable candidate. Why worry when she is going to be the winner, anyway?