Clinton spoke candidly about the obstacles she has had to overcome in her bid to be the first woman president during a rare interview on the campaign trail Sunday. Her 15-minute chat with reporters from the Des Moines Register made history itself, in that Sunday marked the first time the candidate has agreed to sit down with journalists since April. Clinton also sat for an interview with an Iowa radio station on Sunday.
Reflecting on her unsuccessful run in 2008, Clinton said she "carried the very big question which research and polling and just common sense said was out there: Could a woman be president and could a woman be commander in chief? And so I felt like I did have an extra burden."
"Part of what I tried to do in that campaign was to begin to answer that question," Clinton said. "Now I feel like the question's been answered."
Democratic strategists worried during the 2008 race that playing up her sex would leave the impression among voters — particularly men — that Clinton was weak and inexperienced. She often avoided highlighting the gender barrier on the campaign trail, shifting focus whenever possible to her credentials to be commander in chief.
But by the time Clinton bowed out of the 2008 nomination contest, the most famous line in her speech was about the strides her candidacy made for equality among the sexes and what it would mean for future White House bids for women:
"Although we were not able to shatter that highest and hardest glass ceiling this time, thanks to you it has 18 million cracks in it, and the light is shining through like never before, filling us all with the hope and the sure knowledge that the path will be a little easier next time."
On Sunday, Clinton told the Register that it wasn't just her previous campaign that helped open voters' minds, but also Hollywood. She pointed to the popularity of shows in which the central character is a woman running the country or working in a key Cabinet post. Such shows include "Veep" and "Madame Secretary."
"A lot of different cultural references, which I find both fascinating and kind of reinforcing, because it does take a leap of faith, of imagination, for people to envision a woman in the Oval Office, and oftentimes culture, entertainment is ahead of the political system in lots of ways," Clinton said.
She told the Register that not only is she more free to focus on the gender barrier as a central theme in her campaign, but voters seem more interested in hearing about it.
"There is an eagerness that I sense coming at me from people in my audiences, in my conversations, to engage with me about that more than I felt in '08," she said.
"I expect to be judged on my merits," Clinton said, "and the historic nature of my candidacy is one of the merits that I hope people take into account."