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News Analysis: Clinton positions herself for 2016 White House bid despite weaknesses

by Matthew Rusling

WASHINGTON, June 12 (Xinhua) -- Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is positioning herself early for a 2016 White House bid, but she will be dogged by issues including the Benghazi attack and how to connect with ordinary Americans, experts said.

Clinton, widely viewed as the next Democratic candidate in the 2016 White House race, is kicking off an unofficial public relations campaign with the recent release of her new book, "Hard Choices," which was followed by a nationally televised interview on Sunday.

But her support ratings have dropped significantly in the last few years, falling from a high of 59 percent in February to 54 percent this week, signaling an end to the era in which she consistently ranked above 60 percent as secretary of state, according to a Gallup poll released Wednesday.

A Washington Post-ABC News poll released earlier this week also found 50 percent of Americans disapprove of Clinton's actions on Benghazi, compared to 37 percent who approve of her actions.

Clinton, then secretary of state, has been criticized for her handling of the Sept. 11, 2012 terror attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, which led to the deaths of four Americans including Ambassador Christopher Stevens.

Despite a number of Congressional hearings over the issue, there remain many unanswered questions, and critics charge Clinton and the White House with obfuscating over details of what happened before, during and after the attack.

Moreover, Hillary is unlike her husband Bill Clinton, whose "I feel your pain" mantra of the 1990s resonated with ordinary people nationwide. Though widely admired, the former first lady can also come off at times as being aloof and elitist.

Hillary Clinton was accused of showing that side in an interview earlier this week when she said she and the former president were "flat broke" after leaving the White House.

"We had no money when we got there and we struggled to, you know, piece together the resources for mortgages for houses, for (daughter) Chelsea's education, you know. It was not easy," she said in an interview with the ABC News on Sunday.

Her remarks prompted ABC News journalist Dianne Sawyer to ask whether most Americans would understand the fact that Clinton is paid "five times the country's median income" for making one speech.

"That interview we saw with Dianne Sawyer shows exactly how rusty Clinton is right now," Republican strategist Ford O'Connell.

"It's that sort of elitism that causes Americans to step back," O'Connell told Xinhua.

Despite dropping numbers and the Benghazi controversy, many Americans still like Clinton. And she may be the only candidate able to simultaneously clinch the votes of single women, minorities and voters under age 30 -- groups whose votes are needed to win the White House.

"Hillary will have the advantage of a ready-made campaign organization, unparalleled name recognition, and a public that looks fondly on the previous Clinton presidency," Dan Mahaffee, an analyst with the Center for the Study of the Presidency and Congress, told Xinhua.

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