Former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, who sought the party's presidential nomination in 2004, said he expected Hillary Clinton to face a primary challenge. But Dean predicted she would "satisfy a large number of Democratic voters, including a large number of progressives."
"There are going to be issues where there is disagreement on. You can never please everyone," Dean said. "The people who are not going to be pleased are well-organized voices and not a lot of votes."
Asked whether he were considering running again, Dean was blunt: "Nope. Not as long as Hillary's in."
Clinton's supporters say she always has embodied the central tenets of liberalism, the idea that government can address social problems and inequities. They point to a career that began with the Children's Defense Fund, where she walked door to door in New Bedford, Mass., to understand why students were delinquent. She discovered many skipped school because of financial hardships or disabilities.
"She's clearly been a progressive," said de Blasio, who cited her 1996 book, "It Takes a Village," as a precursor to his prekindergarten initiative.
Others note that becoming the first female president would represent progress from the outset.
Clinton endorsed gay marriage shortly after stepping down as secretary of state last year, and she defended the Voting Rights Act, putting her in step with the party's base. At her family's foundation, she has promoted economic and educational opportunities for women and children, a lifelong passion.
On Twitter, Clinton has expressed support for women living in poverty and for extending unemployment benefits.
"In my mind we have a different Hillary than we had in 2008," said Nancy Bobo, a Democratic activist from Des Moines, Iowa, who backed Obama.
Yet questions remain.
When the Clinton Foundation released its annual list of financial supporters, which it does voluntarily, it underscored the corporate support the family's charitable organization has received, with cumulative donations of between $500,000 and $1 million from the Bank of America Foundation, Barclays PLC and ExxonMobil.
Others are watching how she will address the National Security Agency's surveillance practices — at Colgate, she called for a "comprehensive discussion" on the security measures — along with her views of a major trans-Pacific trade deal opposed by labor unions and a proposed Canada-to-U.S. oil pipeline that environmentalists revile.
"It's a new world out there," said Charles Chamberlain, executive director of Democracy for America. "And we want to see that Hillary Clinton is adapting to the new world."
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