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Hillary Clinton, private citizen? Not even close

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton talks about holding onto the core belief of the American dream while speaking Thursday in Chicago.

Meet Hillary Clinton, private citizen.

At least that's how she sought to introduce herself onstage Thursday at the Clinton Global Initiative meeting in Chicago.

But with the world hanging on every tweet, and Republicans already marshaling against her, it's obvious that three years out from the 2016 presidential election, she's anything but another face in a crowded field.

It's simply clear there's no one else like her -- and that this time around, she has a personal brand that outshines even her famous ex-president spouse.

With the addition of a new position as a primary partner of her husband's foundation, Clinton has the kind of infrastructure other potential 2016 candidates can only dream of: access to high-dollar donors and world leaders, a platform for advocacy without the stench of politics, and a way to integrate foreign policy experience with a domestic agenda that she'll need during a presidential run.

"After visiting 112 nations, for four years -- I'm still jetlagged," she joked as she stood onstage at the gathering of the Clinton Global Initiative, her husband's worldwide philanthropic effort.

The address previewed how she might pivot from her tenure as a globe-trotting top diplomat to the state fairs and parades of the American presidential campaign trail.

Empowering women, she said, is the "great unfinished business of the 21st century," reminding the audience that she would make history as the first woman nominee for a major party and, possibly the first woman president.

All her world travels, she said, taught her that "what people wanted was a good job. It didn't matter where they lived, it didn't matter their race or their religion, they wanted a good job."

AP

Hillary Clinton's life has taken her from first lady to senator to secretary of state.

Her speech in Chicago came after an announcement: the charity is not just her husband's effort any more. Former President Bill Clinton announced that he's changing the name to the Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton Foundation. He almost said it himself: Out with the old, and in with the new.

"As I move into my dottage, my job will be to fund people who really know what they're doing, which I am very happy to do," Bill Clinton said as he introduced his wife.

"We are at a phase now where he is a supporting cast member. And I think her voice is the one people want to hear no matter what the stage," Mo Elleithee, Mrs. Clinton's traveling spokesman in 2008, said of the former president.

In her speech, Clinton outlined a policy platform that focuses on the subjects she's worked on for much of her decades-long political career: early childhood education and the advancement of women and girls.

"When women participate in the economy, everyone benefits, this also should be a no brainer. When women participate in peacemaking and peacekeeping, we are all safer and all secure," she said. "And, when women participate in politics, the effects ripple out across society."

And in an era of distrust of big government, she was also careful to emphasize the role that the private sector plays in solving public policy problems.

"Some of the answer does lie with government," she said as she outlined her focus on education for children. "But there is also a responsibility that has to be met by parents and families, by businesses and communities who are at the center of this challenge."

Her speech is just part of what's beginning to look like an orchestrated public rollout of her post-State Department persona. At the beginning of the address, she promised another announcement, to come on Friday. Earlier this week, she joined Twitter -- to extraordinary media fanfare driven, in part, by the provocative personal biography she provided.

Kevin Lamarque / AP

In this Oct. 2011 file photo, then-Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton works from a desk inside a C-17 military plane upon her departure from Malta.

"Wife, mom, lawyer, women & kids advocate, FLOAR, FLOTUS, US Senator, SecState, author, dog owner, hair icon, pantsuit aficionado, glass ceiling cracker, TBD..." she wrote.

(For Thursday's speech, she chose a turquoise pantsuit.)

The photo she picked for her profile was an obvious choice: Photographer Dana Walker's picture of Clinton on the State Department plane, wearing sunglasses and reading her BlackBerry. The picture inspired its own website, and Hillary referenced the meme by using the hastag "#tweetsfromhillary" in her inaugural posting.

Combined, all these winks and nods to her popular persona are likely designed to combat a vulnerability: that she's a re-tread. In 2008, she was considered a member of the establishment "old guard" when she ran against Barack Obama. This time around, she's starting on decidedly cooler footing. But some critics say it's still a weakness.

"Hillary Clinton is literally the past," said Tim Miller, the executive director of America Rising, a Republican PAC. "She's been in Washington for three decades and many people in the electorate who are coming up this next time need to be reminded about what was a very divisive presidency and divisive first lady Hillary Clinton."

The PAC's very existence highlights just how unique Clinton is at this point in the campaign cycle. It's spearheaded by Mitt Romney's former campaign manager, Matt Rhoades -- and it's focused almost exclusively on criticizing Clinton.

The group also accuses her of ignoring swirling controversies emanating from the State Department. Republicans have hammered her for the attacks in Benghazi, Libya, that killed four Americans.

"She might be tweeting now, but she hasn't showed any leadership on the IRS/DOJ/NSA scandals engulfing the White House," the group wrote to reporters this week. "Hillary's response to the scandals? 'Meh.'"

She's already starting to see a decline in the sky-high popularity she enjoyed as secretary of state. Three separate national polls in the last month have shown her favorability dropping.

That, of course, would be the price of re-entering politics.

"If she does re-enter the fray these are questions that she will be asked," says Elleithee, her former spokesman, "and I think she will answer them."

NBC News' Andrew Rafferty contributed to this report.

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