Despite all the efforts to demonstrate Hillary Clinton is not taking the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination for granted and is working hard for it, her campaign still exudes an air of entitlement and coronation.
She is going to the voters wearing a protective coat of handlers that smacks of a royal visit to her own country. She doesn't quite descend among the multitudes in a pope-mobile, but her campaign events go forward under the watchful eyes of strategists who seemingly leave no detail unmonitored.
Her participation in July 4th festivities, including the traditional small-town parades, was marked by staff crowd-control efforts. They included a rope line keeping reporters from getting too close to Her Highness, lest an errant encounter occur.
At the same time, considerable steps have been taken to show her to be open to the public. She offers a smiling face and grace to the hordes who turn out to see her and cheer her on. She has held numerous listening meetings with the hoi polloi in small towns along the way as in Iowa, where she ran an embarrassing third in its 2008 Democratic caucuses.
Despite all this, and for all her huge appeal to women voters as their vehicle to elect the first female president, a certain public resistance appears to cloud the coronation. Her reputation for secrecy, compounded by the controversy over her selective release of e-mails when she was secretary of state, lingers among the inquisitive press.
The Washington Post reports that foot soldiers of the Hillary super PAC called Correct the Record has been undergoing training sessions on how to respond to reporters' questions on their candidate's policy positions. It's run by a former Clinton arch-foe, David Brock, who has found religion and has been embraced as an unvarnished Hillary cheerleader and money-raiser.
All this suggests a recognition in the Clinton camp that she still has not cleared the trustworthy bar with many voters, or at least the bar of likability. In 2008, Barack Obama may have set it high with his off-hand debate remark that Hillary was "likable enough."
The circumstance calls to mind a story told about another Democratic presidential candidate, Sen. Henry M. "Scoop" Jackson of Washington state, in 1976. He had a strong record as a defense hawk but he never seemed to light a spark in or out of his party. A friend, when asked why this was so, told this story: There was a manufacturer of dog food who called in his top staff to figure out why it wasn't selling. "We use the best ingredients, we have the best sales staff and the most striking label on the can," he said. "What's the problem?" In the back of the room, a young aide raised his hand and said: "Dogs don't like it."
By no means is Hillary Clinton the rather colorless figure the way that Scoop Jackson came across as nearly 40 years ago. But as he was back then — a familiar political figure who had been around a long time — Hillary has been a central player on the national stage for nearly a quarter of a century.
From a first lady extremely active and influential in the administration and policies of her husband the president, she has continued as a leader of the women's movement and a host of other liberal causes, a U.S. senator, a 2008 presidential candidate and then for four years a globe-trotting secretary of state.
Through most of this time, she has acquired the adoration of millions, especially women, but at the same time the opposition and even hostility of other millions, particularly in the Republican Party. They have made her their poster villain for all that is progressive and they despise in the country.
The entry into the 2016 Democratic race of liberal/socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont has challenged the inevitability of Ms. Clinton's triumph, now requiring her to refurbish those same left-wing credentials in her own party.
In this way, her bid to return to the White House suddenly may turn out to be less a coronation than the challenge it should be in the democratic process, to spell out why she deserves to be elected.
Jules Witcover is a syndicated columnist and former long-time writer for The Baltimore Sun. His latest book is "The American Vice Presidency: From Irrelevance to Power" (Smithsonian Books). His email is email@example.com.