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Hillary’s hurdle isn’t wealth; it’s being ‘far away from normal’

Over the last 24 hours, the political world has debated this question: Could Hillary Clinton’s wealth and “cloistered lifestyle” hurt her in 2016, if she runs for the presidency?

Citing her recent "dead broke" comment about her family's finances after husband Bill Clinton left the White House in 2001, plus her remark that she and her husband are different than other members of the 1 percent, the Washington Post wrote: "Some influential Democrats — including former advisers to President Obama — said in interviews last week they fear that Clinton’s personal wealth and rarefied, cloistered lifestyle could jeopardize the Democratic Party’s historic edge with the middle class that powered Obama’s wins."

But let's get one thing straight: being wealthy has rarely been a problem in American politics.

Just ask Franklin Roosevelt, John Kennedy, George H.W. Bush, and son George W. Bush, all who entered the White House being personally wealthy or coming from well-to-do families.

Even Barack Obama stepped into the Oval Office as a millionaire -- thanks to his best-selling books.

It's also usually not much a problem when a wealthy politician advocates for policies to lift up the poor and expand the social safety net. Indeed, Mitt Romney's personal wealth and business practices likely wouldn't have been the negatives they were in 2012 had Romney not pursued additional tax cuts for the rich or supported Paul Ryan's budget and Medicare changes.

So if wealth it's the issue for Hillary Clinton, then what is? It's being connected to the average person and his or her concerns. Think about it: The Clintons have had Secret Service protection for 22 years now. And more importantly, they have uber-wealthy friends.

That helps to explain Hillary's "dead broke" comment. Compared with their friends, the Clintons were broke after the leaving the White House, especially with all of their legal bills. But with their earning potential after leaving the White House, and with Hillary's Senate salary, they were hardly like millions of Americans living from paycheck to paycheck.

Back in 2007, the late Tim Russert asked then-candidate Barack Obama if he'd run for president again if he didn't win in '08. Obama's answer: no.

“[O]ne of the things that we bring to this race is we're not that far away from normal. You know, it wasn't that long ago that we were living in a small condo and it was getting too small for our kids, that we were trying to figure out how to save money for our children's college education and paying off student loans," Obama said. "That, I think, gives us some insight into what ordinary Americans are going through right now. Eight years from now, [Michelle] isn't so sure that we won't be in a different orbit, and we won't have that same feeling for what people are going through.”

Being far away from normal -- that could be Hillary's biggest challenge if she runs in 2016.

Then again, just how normal – or far away from normal – will her opponents be?