IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Clinton learns from public pain, private crisis

Take a closer look into the life and presidential campaign of Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., and the personal and political journey that has made her the first woman in history who could win both her party's nomination and the presidency.

'The Candidates: Hillary Clinton' premiered Wednesday, Feb. 20 at 11 p.m. ET/PT.

With no incumbent running for the first time in decades, there is a new energy bringing voters to the primaries. So who are the candidates who have made it to this point in history, and how did they get here?

Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.): I am running for president and I am in it to win it!

She could be the first woman in history to win her party's nomination and the White House.

Even though she rose to fame as first lady, Hillary Rodham Clinton has never been a traditional political wife.

Sen. Clinton: I suppose I could have stayed home and baked cookies and had tea, but what I decided to do was to fulfill my profession.

Doris Kearns Goodwin, Presidential historian: She's always going to be a divisive force.

She's faced moments of public pain, and private crisis, and seems to get stronger. How Hillary could hang in there is one of the mysteries of her.

She went from the White House to Capitol Hill, an elected official in her own right, and now she is running hard for her husband's old job. This is the personal and political journey that has made Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton a presidential contender.

Sen. Clinton: I think it's time that we have a president that will put the American people first, and that is what I will try to do!

Sen. Clinton: If you want a winner that knows how to take them on, I'm your girl.

Hillary Rodham Clinton, one of the most famous women in the world. As wife of the president she broke the traditional mold of first lady. She became the first working mother in the White House, the first to lead a major cabinet level policy committee, and the first to become a United States senator.

She may have surprised the country, but not her friends. Since early childhood, Hillary Rodham was singled out as the girl most likely to succeed.

Her story begins in Chicago in 1947. She is the first child and only daughter born to Hugh and Dorothy Rodham.

David Maraniss, Author, 'First In His Class': Hugh Rodham was an extraordinary character. He was very gruff; cigar smoking. He sat in the same chair every afternoon and barked out orders to his family. He wanted his children to excel and even brought a lot of that into his daughter as well.

A former coal miner, Rodham is a tough-minded Republican and devout Methodist who runs his own drapery business. He wouldn't tolerate any excuses or beating around the bush. He was straight and to the point.

As a child of divorce and a former secretary, Dorothy Rodham dreams of a brilliant career for her first born.

Maraniss: She was very smart; she read a lot. She encouraged Hillary to do whatever she could because she saw in Hillary the way to fulfill some things that she couldn't achieve herself.

She took subversive pleasure teaching Hillary how to fight with the boys.

It happens when the Rodhams move to the suburb of Park Ridge. Hillary, the new kid on the block, is a target. There was a very belligerent little girl who used to knock Hillary off her pins every time she'd go out to play.

Hillary would come home and sobbing.  And her mother would say finally, "Hillary, there's no room in this house for cowards. The next time you go out I want you to punch her back.” And dutifully Hillary marched out, just decked her.

Sen. Clinton: It was just this incredible uproar on the street. And they started pushing me around and I pushed back.

Gail Sheehy: And she ran back to the house and said, "I can play with the boys now.” And her mother said, "And the boys just love her."

Sen. Clinton: It was a particularly good lesson for a girl in those days to be told you know you cannot let life do this to you and you just have to go out there. I'm really grateful for that.

From then on, she fits right in. Hillary takes ballet lessons, rides her bike and plays softball. In Mrs. King's sixth grade English class, Hillary is the classic teacher's pet.

Rickey: She would ask questions from time to time and no one would raise their hand. So Mrs. King would look over at her and say, "Tell them Hillary!"

In high school, Hillary is driven to excel. When her freshman history teacher assigns a 20-page paper she goes further.

Paul Carlson: She wrote a 75 page term paper for me at the age of 14 with 150 note cards and 50 bibliographic cards.

She seemed more grown up, more interested in things outside of high school.

Carlson: I made the remark to Hillary's mother she seemed to know political current affairs. Her mother volunteered:  “We expect our children to talk local politics and what's going locally as well as nationally.”

Raised as a strict Methodist, as a teenager, Hillary is inspired by her church's new youth minister, who would become one of the biggest influences of her life.

Sen. Clinton: It wasn't just a lesson Sunday morning or Sunday night. We went into Chicago where we worked and played with young people very different from us racially and ethnically and in terms of their family's income.

Patsy, childhood friend of Hillary Clinton: She got quite involved. And I think that was a turning point for her involvement with the church, opening our eyes up to those kinds of things.

Reverend Jones also arranges for the group to hear Martin Luther King Junior speak, in those days, a very liberal voice by Park Ridge standards.

Dr. Don Jones (Rev.): At the time it didn't have the impact that it had as she reflected on it later when she became involved in the civil rights movement.

Because at this time in the early 60's Hillary and her family are staunch Republicans.

Carlson: This is a citizens for Goldwater miller. This was during the 1964 when Hillary was a senior. And here is Hillary's signature in her own handwriting, promising to work for Barry Goldwater.

And when she arrives at Wellesley College the following September, her politics haven't changed:

Dr. Jones: One of the very first offices she ran for, and Hillary was always running for offices, was for the President of the Young Republicans Club. She became its president.

But her time at Wellesley, the elite women's liberal arts college, will send Hillary’s life into a new direction.

The 1960s are among the most turbulent times in American history. Over the next four years, Hillary is increasingly on the liberal side of campus debates, from the women's movement to school prayer. She's elected student body president, and, by the 1968 presidential election, Hillary, once a Goldwater Republican, is campaigning for anti-war candidate Eugene McCarthy.

It's May 1969 and graduating senior Hillary Rodham is about to become a legend at Wellesley’s commencement.

When guest speaker, Republican Senator Edward Brooke urges the students to support the establishment and back the war in Vietnam, Hillary sets aside her prepared speech to respond. 

Betsey, Sen. Clinton’s Wellesley dorm mate: Even as she began speaking, the electricity, the ripple, among classmates and then the cheers at the end reverberated. I don't think anyone was not caught up in that moment.

In a polite but firm rebuke of Senator Brooke, Hilary rallies her classmates to challenge the status quo.

Betsey: I remember the energy of it, feeling that we had found expression and it was a jubilant end to our four years there; really the right send-off. It was the feeling you ought to have at the end of graduation speech.

Marge Wanderer, mother of Wellesley student: When she finished, they rose as a body and applauded her. I will never forget it because Nancy said to me at the end of the graduation, “Take a good look at her. She will probably be president of the United States some day.”

By the early 1970s, many baby boomers, molded by the social turbulence of the 1960s, start entering the mainstream.

Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY): We came of age in the civil rights movement, the Vietnam War, the women's movement. A lot of us had to really find our way, to make sense of the world that we're in.

In 1972, she is one of only 30 women in a class of 140 working towards a Yale law degree.

David Maraniss, Author, 'First In His Class': She wanted to change society. She wanted the power to actually improve the lives of children and of different people in society but she didn't believe in just talking, sitting around writing treatises. She wanted to actually do something.

So did a student one year behind her, Bill Clinton.

Gail Sheehy: He was dazzled by her, the way she spoke up in class, the way everybody crowded around her in the lunch room.  And finally he got up the courage; actually he didn't get up the courage to. You've heard this story so many times, they've rehearsed it and dramatized it for the political films shown at the 1992 Democratic Convention.

Maraniss: Hillary Rodham was head over heels in love with Bill Clinton, almost from the beginning.  It was a romantic attraction. And I think that that his attraction to her was probably a little more based on how smart she was and how she shared his political ideas, hopes and dreams. He saw that he could get somewhere with her, that he couldn't get with one of the beauty queens he'd been dating.

One of her first career moves out of law school, a coup at the time, is one that will eerily come back to haunt her. She lands a job on the House Nixon Impeachment Committee in Washington.

Marannis: They were looking for the smartest young lawyers they could find who would work 24 hours a day and not need to be paid much. So there were calls made up there. Bill Clinton was asked first whether he wanted to come and he said "no but my girlfriend might," so Hillary was recruited.

Sara Ehrman: She was absolutely focused on what she needed to do and she did it with a minimum of motion. She looked very intense and very involved, and extremely efficient. We were all very impressed with the way Hillary looked on television at that time.

A Yale law degree, legal experiences of a historic nature, Hillary Rodham’s career options are considerable.  To the shock of nearly everyone, she heads for Arkansas.

Sen. Clinton: I had some apprehension. Bill was really the only person I knew in the state and I was packing up and moving.

And the woman who drove her across the country kept stopping at every scenic site saying, "Have you lost your mind?  You really want to live in Fayetteville, Arkansas?”

Ehrman: I did say to her, "Why in the name of God are you going down to that godforsaken place? You are going to probably marry a country lawyer who will never amount to anything.  He'll be just be a country lawyer and you could be anything you want be."

Sheehy: When they got to Fayetteville, which is up in north corner of Arkansas, it was a college town and it was Saturday and football culture. 

Ehrman: The downtown was full of kids wearing pig hats.

Sheehy: And they had this horrible cheer of the Razorbacks that was being shouted all over town. It's the sound of pigs in heat.

Ehrman: College kids wearing pig hats going “sooey sooey soeey pig pig pig.” I began to cry and I said "You cannot stay in this town. You cannot live here."

From the outset, they have a plan. Hillary will teach law at the University of Arkansas and help run Bill's campaign for Congress. It also marks the beginning of rumors of other women.

Maraniss: She's a very smart woman. She didn't go into it blind. She knew what he was like. There were women inside the headquarters who were assigned to shoo one of Bill Clinton's Arkansas girlfriends out the back door while Hillary was coming in the front door. So it wasn't a secret in the campaign either.

Bill loses the campaign. Whatever Hillary knows or doesn't know about other women, they marry in 1975.

Sen. Clinton: He was clearly the person that I thought would be the most fun and exciting to spend my life with. I had never consciously thought one way or another until I met the right person.

Sheehy: When she married him she was convinced he was going to be president one day, and she was going to help him get there.  But she also intended to have an independent career as an activist public service lawyer.

Before long, President Carter names her head of the legal services corporation. With her husband committed to public service, she goes into private practice when the Rose Law Firm recruits her as one of Arkansas' first female lawyers. There she meets a firm partner named Vince Foster.

Sheehy: I never found anybody who really corroborated the ongoing rumor that they had been lovers, they were extremely close. And he was Hillary's protector during many years in the 1980's when she and Bill were at odds.

By 1978, Bill and Hillary are Arkansas' ultimate power couple. He has been elected governor and they move into the official mansion in a manner befitting their generation.

Sen. Clinton: It was at that stage in our marriage where you really had nothing. You know you still had posters on the wall and you had the bricks holding up the bookcases and we literally moved our belongings that first term in the back of a pickup truck.

But it's Hillary's independent style that's making waves.

Sen. Clinton: I had kept my name because I thought that was the right decision at the time. I think as people learned a little bit they didn't know what to expect or what to think.

Philip Martin, Columnist, Arkansas Democratic-Gazette: She was not exactly what the people in Arkansas came to expect of a first lady. Other first ladies were retiring, they were shy, they were demure, certainly only in the background. They were never in the forefront. They certainly were never a Rodham while your husband was a Clinton.

It's 1980, Bill Clinton and Hillary Rodham are in the governor's mansion and facing a tough re-election. Hillary is wearing several hats; first lady, partner in a law firm, and she is pregnant.

Sara Ehrman: And I said, “How you are doing it all. How are you managing it all?” She said, “it's all wonderful. I'm so happy, it's wonderful.” Everything was just so fulfilling to her.

Gail Sheehy: She said, “I can't really be a woman without having a child.” Chelsea was very precious to her, the one perfect child.

Chelsea's name is inspired by a Judy Collins recording. 

Politically though, 1980 is a disaster:

Former President Bill Clinton: Hillary and I have shed a few tears for our loss of last evening. But we accept the will of our people with humility.

Ehrman: It was a huge loss both politically and psychologically. I don't think either of those young people had ever lost anything they wanted.

They vow to make a comeback, with Hillary leading the fight. 

Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.): But if that doesn't work you go in and you try and beat the brains out of the other guy. That's what a campaign is going to come down to.

David Marannis, Author, 'First In His Class': She resurrected him as much as anything. She's the one who brought Dick Morris the consultant out to Arkansas to figure out how to move Clinton to the center and help his rise.

Sheehy: When she saw what the concept was, that you go negative and attack your opponents on personal basis, she let Dick Morris go to town.

She also repackages herself into a southern First Lady. She lightens her hair, drops her glasses, and her maiden name. 

Sen. Clinton: So in order to avoid any problem, and just to put it to rest, I will forever be known as Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Betsy Griffin: I think it was very hard for her to do it, but again an act of love. Why divert them with how many names you have or what names you use if what you want to talk about is poverty and the programs that are not getting to kindergarten age children?

It all pays off.

Bill Clinton’s first comeback, regaining the Arkansas governorship, it helps cement Hillary’s reputation as his best political weapon.

Maraniss: But what really developed during those years in Arkansas is that Bill Clinton’s implicit faith that whatever he wanted Hillary to do she would do right and come through for him. So he took that concept with him into the White House and it led to some problems.

And in a foreshadowing of her later work on healthcare, she assumes an unprecedented role, heading a commission on education reform. 

Sen. Clinton: I believe we must hold accountable teachers as well. Taking on the teachers' unions, she pushes for competency tests. When it becomes law, 10 percent of Arkansas' teachers get a failing grade. She fights for the issues and for her husband, even barging into a press conference held by her husband's opponent.

Bill's opponent: He has consistently avoided a public debate.

Sen. Clinton: Who is the one who has consistently avoided a debate, give me a break. I think we ought to get the record straight. It's ironic to me that before you were a candidate many of the reports you issued not only praised the governor, not only on his environmental record but his educational record and his economic record.

According to an aide at the time, Betsy Wright, he quits a 1988 White House bid because of rumors of infidelity.

Maraniss: I think she always felt that once she moved to Arkansas, to leave Bill Clinton at any point would be leaving herself. Because she'd committed herself to this joint project of them rising together.

During the 1992 campaign, when the Jennifer Flowers story breaks, Gail Sheehy was with Hillary.

Sheehy: She did not flinch. I found it the most astonishing thing I've ever seen. But she immediately went into battle mode, and ordered her then press secretary, to get Bill on the phone. She said, “Get our surrogates on the phone.  We're going to fight this.”

She did it on the "60 Minutes" broadcast.

Sen. Clinton: I'm not some little woman standing by her man, I'm not Tammy Wynette.

With that, and some follow-up remarks, Hillary Clinton becomes a controversial household name.

Sen. Clinton: I suppose I could have stayed home and baked cookies and had tea, but what I decided to do was to fulfill my profession which I entered before my husband was in public life.

For the rest of the campaign, she continues to draw the lightning.

On Inauguration Day in 1993, Hillary Rodham Clinton’s long ago vision at long last becomes reality.

The new first couple is jubilant, but wary of the road ahead. When asked the first thing they'll do in the white house?

Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.): Pull the covers over our heads.

David Maraniss, Author, 'First In His Class': What was going through Hillary's mind when they reached the White House was what I can do in the White House to create an Eleanor Roosevelt legacy. I don't think it was anything other than that.

Sen. Clinton: I think every woman who's been in this position has refined it to fit her. And I have been so impressed by what I’ve learned about the women who have been here before and what they've done and the contributions they've made.

Clearly, her first concern is Chelsea.

Sen. Clinton: I want her to have as normal a life as she can, to be the person God meant her to be. And I think the only way that I can do that is to give her a chance to grow up as nearly as possible if her father were not president. 

Sen. Clinton: I had a wonderful couple of lunches with Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. She talked about how important to give your children responsibility, giving them as normal a life as you can despite everything that's going on around them. They deserve a chance to grow up to be who they're going to be.

But motherhood aside, Hillary Clinton is not Jackie Kennedy to the public. As the first "baby boomer first lady," she is inaugurating a new era for political wives. The price tag is familiar:

Doris Kearns Goodwin, Presidential Historian: To the extent that Hillary is a symbol of working women, the people who are working love her. To the extent that she threatens the fact that maybe women's roles are changing too much they hate her. So she's always going to be a divisive force.

Betsy Wright: She's without precedent and without a role model in terms of she's crossed a generational line for a lot of professional women here. They're going to fall in love with her in this country.

But nationally, as in Arkansas, not everyone feels that way.

When Bill appoints her to chair his healthcare reform commission, the highest policy position ever held by a first lady, the stakes are high.

Sen. Clinton: Is it a risk? Sure it's a risk. Am I conscious that I could get blamed or be criticized? Of course, but I think it's a risk that my husband believes is worth taking and I agree with him.

Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.V.: I've never seen any person, male or female, take 50 Senators and speak to them so openly, so directly, so calmingly, so reassuringly, and of course, so knowledgeably.

But whether in substance, or in strategy, they're no match for the well heeled medical health insurance community.

A paid advertising blitz helps sink Clinton healthcare reform.

Maraniss: I think that might have been one of the most depressing moments in her life. In some ways she was responsible for health care going down. And other ways it was the huge force of insurance companies and other interests against her.

The failure delights her critics.

Rush Limbaugh: Power without accountability.

She made a lot of mistakes and it was something she wasn't accustomed to doing.  She was accustomed to prevailing and coming through for her husband.

It turns out there is no end to controversy:  Whitewater, Travelgate, a quick killing in commodities trading, and once again, allegations about her husband's infidelity.

Through it all, Hillary maintains a balance and stoicism that some says she learned from her mother:

Gail Sheehy: It was so important for Mrs. Rodham to teach her children how to maintain equilibrium. You're never supposed to express too much emotion. So she would use a carpenter's level to demonstrate how you had to keep the bubble in the middle. If it tilted a little bit this way, you had to bring it right back to the center; always had to keep an equilibrium. 

Dealing with very personal losses is part of Hillary’s first year in the White House. First, her father Hugh Rodham dies of a stroke at age 82.

Then the suicide of Vince Foster, her confidant and Deputy White House Counsel, who had been handling whitewater. In 1996 she looked back at that time.

Sen. Clinton: My father dies, my friend Vince Foster killed himself, my mother in law's health deteriorated and she died.  If I had been back in Arkansas that would have been an extraordinarily stressful year. I am sure I could have been quicker to learn. I could have avoided some mistakes but I think it's natural that you have to make your own mistakes, learn from them and go on."

After two years in the White House, Bill Clinton looks like a one-term president. His poll numbers are sinking. Newt Gingrich has engineered the GOP takeover of the house. Hillary gets plenty of blame.

Maranis: And all of a sudden people are saying you have to be more traditional. You have to back away from these issues that you care about. Go for little nickel and dime things, she hated that. She wanted a systemic change. People around her in that period in early 1995 said that was one of the most depressed periods of her life.

Sara Ehrman: I bet she did a lot on the treadmill, a lot of exercise, a lot of talking to herself, and a lot of determination that this was not going to get her down. 

At perhaps her lowest point in her husband's first term, Hillary fends off charges about everything from commodities trading to Whitewater in an unprecedented live press conference.

Her performance offsets months of negative publicity.  Soon Hillary is focusing on two lifelong passions: women's and children's rights. 

Chelsea is a frequent companion.

Gail Sheehy: She began making trips around the world and finding ways that she could empower women. In Beijing, she came out on the stage in front of the entire Chinese communist leadership, planted her feet, and took them to task for killing girl babies."

Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.): That breaks my heart; from children who have been abused, whose parents have abandoned them, who have terrible illnesses. Either themselves or their families and they're not getting treated.

Soon, she has a book out and its universal theme becomes an unexpected hit:

The bestseller nets over $700,000 for charity and a Grammy for Hillary’s audio version

Sen. Clinton: I'm amazed, I didn't even know Grammy’s were given to tone deaf singers like me.

But, not everyone is buying it.

Former Senator Bob Dole, R-Kan.: I am here to tell you it does not take a village to raise a child, it takes a family to raise a child.

Sen. Clinton: It takes a family, it takes teachers, it takes clergy, it takes a village.

November, 1996: At the White House Bill and Hillary bask in the glow of the re-election that many had thought impossible. It's their ultimate comeback.  Lost in the crowd, a young woman in a black beret, whom the world won't know about for another year.

For now, the Clintons seem as happy as they've ever been. Here, celebrating Hillary’s 50th birthday in 1997.  But skeptics call this beach scene a publicity stunt, designed to inoculate Clinton for his upcoming deposition in the Paula Jones case, but the Clintons deny it.

Maraniss: When the Lewinsky story first broke there was incredible confusion and dismay inside the White House. Nobody knew how to defend this. You know there had been so many stories about Clinton and women in the past. Who do you believe?  Do we really have to believe him again? Is this the one that would bring him down. And there was enormous despair there.

Former President Bill Clinton: I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Ms. Lewinsky.

Everyone's wondering, "What will Hillary say?"  Her TODAY show appearance will become the talk of the nation.

Matt Lauer, NBC News: He has described to the American people what this relationship was not in his words.

Sen. Clinton: That's right.

Lauer: Has he described to you what it was?

Sen. Clinton: Yes, and we'll find that out as time goes by, Matt. But I think the important thing now is to stand as firmly as I can and say that you know the president has denied these allegations on all counts. Unequivocally and we'll see how this plays out.

As the crisis intensifies, Hillary perseveres.

Sen. Clinton: It's hard to think about what’s going on in Washington and sometimes it even gives you a headache, doesn't it?

George Stephanopoulos: I think she masks her vulnerability and her hurt with a kind of brittle, hard exterior. She's almost the exact opposite of the President who has quite a soft empathetic exterior, but he's got a very tough, tough core.

But eventually, her husband tells Hillary, Chelsea, and the nation the truth.

Former President Bill Clinton: I misled the American people.

Maraniss: When they took that long walk to the helicopter and flew up to Martha's Vineyard I'm sure it must have been the iciest few days imaginable between them, and they'd had many icy days before. But once again she realized that she could not leave him. That she had to stay with him. If she left him, she would be leaving herself.

Sara Ehrman: I asked her how she was and she said “I'd like to stay in bed and pull the covers over my head and have a nervous breakdown but I really don't have time right now. I'll defer to it later.” And she marched on.

Maraniss: Hillary, in her whole life, had never wanted to play the victim. She's always wanted to seem like the strong woman. And this just threw her off completely.

Ehrman: It's strength and it's a kind of defiance that nobody or nothing is going to shake her from what she thinks her life is.

Through it all, Hillary emerges as a powerful political voice. She rallies congressional Democrats to surprise gains in the off-year election.

But impeachment can't be stopped. Her husband is only the second president in American history to be called to trial.

Maraniss: It's one of the great cycles of the dramatic story of Hillary and Bill Clinton. Twenty-five years earlier, she'd been the one at the lowest levels of the last impeachment.

Ehrman: It was a very sad day actually. But they held onto each other and they kept each other going and I thought that was very much in keeping with their relationships with each other. They have been there for each other in bad times always.

When the year-long trauma ends, the public Hillary benefits. Her dignity, stamina and strength send her approval ratings soaring.

Maraniss: Hillary Clinton, the wronged woman, suddenly became more popular. Regular women all over the country could identify with her for the first time because they'd been wronged as well. And imagine that for her, something that she never wanted. She was liked for the reason that she never wanted to be liked.

Betsy Griffith: I believe Hillary fell in love with Bill Clinton at Yale and I believe he fell in love with her because she's so smart. I think they found qualities in each other to admire that remain the qualities that they admire.

Ehrman: I believe she believes in God and I have to be honest with you I don’t know a lot of people who have faith in God the way Hillary does. I think that got her through a lot, faith in God, anger, anger at injustice, at being demonized, victimized.

Griffith: Hilary is a principled person and I think she also understands for better or worse there aren't a lot of people who respect that part of marriage vows and I think she does.

It's the summer of 1999 and Hillary Clinton takes a cautious first step towards becoming the first first lady ever to run for public office, an open senate seat in New York.

Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.): I care deeply about the issues that are important in this state.

David Maraniss, Author, First In His Class: She wasn't able to fulfill all that she wanted to as first lady and along came New York.

But trying to balance two roles, first lady and political candidate creates problems. Political missteps convince her detractors she'll drop out of the race, but Hillary prevails.

Sen. Clinton: So the answer is yes, I intend to run.

But within days, the race takes an abrupt turn. Her republican opponent, Mayor Rudy Giuliani, pulls out because of personal and medical problems. Her new opponent is Rick Lazio, a little known republican congressman from Long Island. Some observers point to this debate as one of the defining moments of the race.

Lazio walks over to Hillary and hands her papers to sign.

The next day polls indicate that many women are turned off by Lazio’s aggressive behavior and swing over to Hillary.

The race is a family affair. Chelsea leaves school for a semester to join her mother on the campaign trail. Bill works behind the scenes as coach, strategist and confident. In the end, New York voters pick Hillary Rodham Clinton as their junior senator.

On Jan. 4, 2001, she is sworn-in to her first elective office. At first, Sen. Clinton faces criticism. There are reports she had solicited and received thousands of dollars of gifts before leaving the White House. Controversial pardons especially that of fugitive financier Marc Rich, granted by President Clinton also cast a shadow over Hillary.

But on Sept. 11, 2001, she is the leader New Yorkers had hoped she'd be.

Sen. Clinton: There's absolutely no need for anyone to panic. We have a lot of work ahead including identifying who is responsible for this cowardice and evil and holding them accountable for no matter where they are and how long that might take.

The day after the attacks, she gets her first view of ground zero. Her effort to help her state recover earns her praise from the other side of the senate aisle.

Sen. Warner: You've become a senior senator very quickly and you are a tower of strength.

In Washington with her own family by her side, she grieves for the thousands of victims and their families. She and Bill feel they came close to losing their own daughter. Chelsea was close to the attack, and it took a couple of hours to learn she was safe.

Sen. Clinton: She was going down to the Battery Park; she was going to go around the towers. She went to get a cup of coffee and that's when the plane hit.

In January 2003, Hillary Clinton adds to her list of firsts when she becomes the first New York senator ever to serve on the Senate Armed Services Committee. Some say it’s a move that will expand her experience in foreign policy and could prepare her for the presidency.

Adding to the buzz about her political ambitions, her memoir, "Living History," is published in June 2003.

While soaring book sales prove her popularity, she stands firm she will not be running for president in 2004.

Tim Russert, NBC News: If one of the leading candidates falters or the convention becomes deadlocked, would you, under any circumstances, accept the Democratic nomination in 2004?

Sen. Clinton: You know, Tim, I've ruled it out. I'm going to continue to rule it out.

Instead she remains committed to fulfilling her years of service as senator from New York and what she wants to accomplish, including improving health care and children's rights.

While Hillary’s voice is being heard in the senate, in 2005 she continues to keep quiet about the possibility of running for president in 2008, even with her husband.

Former President Bill Clinton: I am quite confident that she has not decided to do that, or if she has, she hasn't told me. I really believe that.

Williams: Is that possible?

Former President Bill Clinton: Unlikely. I do not know what she's going to do. I know that she is focused on finishing this term and getting re-elected, and that's exactly what she should focus on. If she loses that focus, she might not get to the next election, and she won't do that.

In November 2006, Senator Hillary Clinton wins re-election over republican opponent John Spencer. As rumors swirl about whether she will run for president, her vote to authorize the war in Iraq is a hot button topic.

Meredith Vieira, NBC News: Senator, why can't you say your vote was a mistake?

Sen. Clinton: Well, Meredith, I've taken responsibility for my vote. But I also, as a member of the United States Senate, have an obligation to try to figure out what we're going to do now. I'm not on the sidelines. I'm in the arena. I'm on the Senate Armed Services Committee. You know, I look at those terrible death figures and injuries that our young men and women are suffering, and I'm trying to figure out what is the smart, right way to get us out of Iraq.

Vieira: But people also look for a consistent record. When you say you've taken responsibility, senator, once again, is that the same thing as saying, `I made a mistake by voting for the war?'

Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) : You know, it's interesting to me how clear I've been that -what I said repeatedly was that we were not conducting this in a very effective way. I've been one of the most consistent and persistent critics.

Soon after this visit to the TODAY show, Hillary Clinton makes her intentions clear.

Sen. Clinton: I am running for president and I am in it to win it. To all those who say a woman cannot be elected president, I say we'll never know unless we try.

Peter Hart, NBC News: I think Americans are ready for a female president. I think they're definitely ready for Hillary Clinton.

As a presidential candidate, Clinton emphasizes the issues that have always meant the most to her.

Sen. Clinton: I believe everyone, every man, woman and child, should have quality, affordable health care in America.

She places a disappointing third in the Iowa caucus. A stunning setback. Days later, an emotional moment at a campaign stop in New Hampshire.

Sen. Clinton: I have so many opportunities for this country. I just don't want to see us fall backward.

While some criticize her for showing emotion, others cite it as a turnaround on the way toward her win in the New Hampshire primary (crying).

Sen. Clinton: Let's give America the kind of comeback that New Hampshire has just given me (cheers).

With the results of Super Tuesday and beyond, Senator Clinton is locked in a tight race with Illinois Senator Barack Obama for the democratic nomination.

With Obama making gains, Clinton replaces her campaign manager.

And there are lingering questions about former president Clinton’s role in her campaign.

Sen. Clinton: I don't think there'll be any doubt who will wear the pant suits in the white house. It’s my campaign, I will be the president and I will make the decisions (laughs).

The 2008 presidential race could be a battle all the way to the White House and Hillary Clinton is determined to prove she is up for the challenge.

Sen. Clinton: You're ready for a president who brings your voice, your values, and your dreams to your white house (cheers)!

Whichever candidate emerges victorious at the convention, history will be made.