- Associated Press - Friday, January 29, 2016

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - Hillary Clinton finds herself in a surprisingly intense contest as her chief rival’s late surge revives memories of her surprising loss to then-Illinois Sen. Barack Obama in Iowa in 2008. The former secretary of state is now offering harsher critiques of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, while working to avoid alienating supporters she would need in the general election. Here’s a quick look at some things to know about her.

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THE BRIEF

Clinton entered the race as the prohibitive front-runner. But after months of dominating polls, she is in a tough race against Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.

Clinton has devoted significant time and money to Iowa, a state won by Barack Obama in 2008, and hopes her organizational strength there will best Sanders’ grassroots enthusiasm. In New Hampshire, she faces a tougher contest, given Sanders’ decades representing bordering Vermont in Congress. She hopes to use her strength with minority voters to beat him in later contests held in Southern states.

Though many Democratic strategists still predict she will capture the nomination, they now expect the race to continue into the spring. That’s brought on fears that a contentious primary could leave Clinton in a weaker position for the general election if she in fact becomes the nominee.

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RESUME REVIEW

Lawyer, senator, first lady, diplomat. In Arkansas, she was a lawyer at a top firm while Bill Clinton was governor. In the White House, she advised her husband and oversaw an ill-fated health care overhaul. As a senator from New York, she worked across the aisle to secure benefits for Sept. 11 responders. Her vote for the Iraq invasion became a point of contention in 2008. She later described her support as a “mistake.” At the State Department, she was a hawkish member of Obama’s national security team as secretary of state, who helped set the foundation for nuclear talks with Iran.

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SIGNATURE ISSUE

In a primary dominated by economic issues, Clinton has spent time trying to distinguish herself from Sanders with her foreign policy record. Over the past few months, she’s given a series of speeches laying out detailed plans for combating the rise of the Islamic State group abroad and terrorism at home.

To highlight her experience, she frequently tells voters about being in the Situation Room with Obama when Osama bin Laden was killed. And she’s charged Sanders with having a naive view of global complexities.

“The challenges a president has to grapple with are beyond complicated, both at home and abroad,” she told voters in Iowa. “That’s why it’s the hardest job in the world. I’ve seen it up close and personal and I know what it takes.”

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DEBATE DIGEST

While Clinton has displayed a comfortable command of the debate stage, one of her best moments came courtesy of rival Sanders. In the first match-up, Sanders dismissed questions about her private server. “”The American people are sick and tired of hearing about your damn emails!” he said.

Clinton responded by reaching out to shake his hand.

That exchange has largely neutralized the email issue in the Democratic contest. But it’s bound to be a different story in the fall if she’s the Democrat running in the general election. Republicans still have plenty to say about it.

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MOMENT TO REMEMBER

As secretary of state, Clinton presided over a key piece of the government’s reaction to the deadly 2012 assaults on a diplomatic compound and CIA quarters in Benghazi, Libya. The attacks, which killed Chris Stevens, the U.S. ambassador to Libya, and three other Americans, quickly became a political rallying cry for Republicans. And Clinton, as the front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination, became their prime political target.

In October, she took the stand before the special House committee investigating the attacks. She remained largely unflappable through the 11-hour hearing, using it to display a presidential presence under a barrage of questions. The commanding performance bolstered Democratic enthusiasm for her bid and quieted some of the political clamor over her response to the attacks at the State Department.

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PLEASE FORGET

Clinton has been dogged by questions over her use of a private server located in her home as secretary of state. A month before she announced her presidential bid, she held a news conference to address the matter. During 20 minutes of questions, Clinton said she used the personal account over a government-issued one for “convenience.”

“I thought it would be easier to carry just one device for my work and for my personal emails instead of two,” she said.

It later came out that Clinton used both an iPad and a BlackBerry during her time at the agency - a charge that’s kept alive Republican efforts to paint her as untrustworthy.

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ONLINE AND SOCIAL MEDIA

Twitter:

https://twitter.com/hillaryclinton

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