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How Should Hillary Run?

Image: Hillary Rodham Clinton

Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton contemplates during a question and answer session with Victor Dodig, president and CEO of tCIBC, at a Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce luncheon in Winnipeg, Canada, Wednesday, Jan. 21, 2015. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, John Woods) John Woods / AP

In interviews with NBC News, influential Democrats and progressives acknowledged that Hillary Clinton is the overwhelming favorite to win the Democratic presidential nomination.

But they had differing views on how she should handle some of the key questions around her campaign. Here’s a breakdown of some of the bigger challenges she may face and how some of her fellow Democrats think she should handle them:

1. The possibility that Clinton will become the first female president

“I think the mantle of change is seized not through recognition of the obvious fact that she would be the first woman, but by having a fresh, future-oriented vision of what the country can be and how we get there,” said David Axelrod, President Obama’s former chief strategist.

“Electing a woman president of the United States would be a fundamental change, and a further fulfillment of the nation’s creed. She should own that, and run boldly and assertively as a woman candidate who appeals to women’s sense of destiny, the way Obama appealed to African-Americans,” said Joy-Ann Reid, an aide to Obama's campaign in Florida in 2008 who now hosts a show on MSNBC.

2.What issues Clinton should focus on

“The glue that has always held the Democratic Party together has been creating jobs, education for our people and affordable health care,” said Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear.

There is “strong support for free community college, but stronger public support for debt-free college at all public universities,” said Adam Green, co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee. “The American public is there. The risk of having things that sound like big ideas, but are smaller-scale, is they won’t actually affect people’s lives.”

“I hope Hillary shows a vision for bringing all of us together, for finding areas where we agree, and using her skills as a statesman to promote a forward thinking agenda – on issues including energy independence, respect for the environment, and on growing income for those who still are being stymied in our recovery from the deep recession,’ said Joe Erwin, former chairman of the South Carolina Democratic Party.

“What I want to hear is how is she going to get people out of poverty,” said Joe Madison, a former national board member of the NAACP who hosts a radio show on Sirius XM. “I don’t know if she’s best equipped to do that. She’s got to prove it to me. Elizabeth Warren may be more equipped.”

“Assuming she will talk about climate change and immigration, I would hope she will take up gun violence and campaign finance reform. Those seem to have dropped out of the national dialogue,” said Kentucky congressman John Yarmuth.

“I will be looking for her to articulate some of her foreign policy views, which appear to be a little more hawkish,” said Jim Manley, a longtime spokesman on Capitol Hill for Sen. Edward Kennedy and later Sen. Harry Reid. “I just want it fleshed out.”

“I'd like to see her embrace paid family leave. As policy, it's absolutely necessary, and I even think it can be a political winner,” said Michael Tomasky, editor of Democracy, a liberal policy journal.

“One of the biggest problems and frustrations for the American people is Washington's inability to get things done and the partisan gridlock that exists ... The American people want the dysfunction of Washington to end and all of the 2016 candidates should layout how that will happen,” said James Demers, a former state representative who was Obama’s New Hampshire campaign co-chair.

3. How Clinton should discuss her husband's presidency

“She will lose if she runs as a legacy candidate, peddling nostalgia for Bill Clinton's presidency and continuity with the Obama presidency. America will be ready for a change in 2016 -- no matter how well Barack Obama may be doing in the polls by then. It's a natural political instinct to want to progress,” said John Nichols, a progressive writer for The Nation magazine.

“She’s going to get money from people in New York who think it’s a return to the Bob Rubin era,” said a Democratic donor who raised more than $100,000 for Clinton in 2008 and said he is likely to do so again. “She needs to recapture the ‘what happened to the middle class’ argument but nobody buys that from her.”

Clinton: You Can Say What You Want Unless Your Wife Runs for President 0:24

“She can say ‘my husband oversaw an economic expansion, ... I played a role in that, in helping make that happen,” said Steve Grossman, former chairman of the Democratic National Committee.

4. If Clinton should highlight differences or areas where she could govern better than Obama

“If Hillary Clinton was president, I would have a hard time with TPP,” said Rep. Alcee Hastings, a Democrat from Florida, referring to the trade deal with a group of Asian-Pacific countries that Obama and congressional Republicans favor but many on the left oppose.

“I will have no problem at all saying to President Obama I will not vote" for it, said Hastings, “because we don’t have a relationship. I do believe that she would have a better relationship with senators and members of Congress than Barack Obama does.”

5. Her more than 20 years on the political scene

“When people say, as First Lady she did something, that’s not always the best way to frame the message, because it does remind people that she’s not new, she’s not fresh, she’s not the next cool thing,” said a Clinton backer who worked on her campaign in 2008. “How do you talk about your experience without talking about your experience? Americans want someone with experience.”

“She can’t run as a candidate you’ve never seen before, but she can certainly say that she has a track record of working with both parties and continually standing up for what she believes in, no matter what the other side throws at her,” said Margie Omero, a Democratic pollster.

6. How Clinton can connect with the electorate

“I love Elizabeth Warren, I like Hillary Clinton a lot, but I could go for a moderate Democrat as long as they’re going to do something for the working class. We’ve got to have a candidate who is willing to stand up to corporate interests," said Melissa Watson, one of the vice-chairs of the South Carolina Democratic Party.

“Often times, for a candidate ... you want to know about their policies. Everybody kind of has that sense for Hillary. They know she will be tough, she will step up on women’s issues. With her the question is what is her authentic voice ... Everyone knows she’s qualified. Can she find that voice where she’s not scripted?” said Maria Teresa Kumar, president of Voto Latino.

“It’s incredibly important that she offers a theory of government’s role in modern American society, specifically in terms of accessing the American dream,” said Chris Lehane, an aide in the Clinton White House who is now a political adviser to billionaire California environmentalist Tom Steyer.

In 2014, “we lost a lot of the working-class white vote. We have to figure that out,” said Jamie Harrison, chairman of the South Carolina Democratic Party.