The central character of the autumn 2008 U.S. presidential election has taken the stage. Hillary Clinton, the New York senator, has announced her bid for the presidency.

In the U.S. midterm elections last November, the Democratic Party scored a huge victory over the Republicans to gain control of Congress. Presidential hopefuls from the Democratic Party are hoping to ride that wave of success straight to the White House.

So far, Illinois Senator Barack Obama, former North Carolina Senator John Edwards who was the Democratic vice presidential nominee in 2004 and others have announced their intentions to run.

Obviously, Senator Clinton's decision to announce now was influenced by the other nominees within the party. But we cannot ignore the fact that as the situation in Iraq plunges deeper into dire straits, more Americans are hoping for a leader that is different from President George W. Bush.

In the Republican camp, Senator John McCain, former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney are also preparing their presidential runs.

But now that Clinton has thrown down the gauntlet, it feels as if the race toward the presidency has really begun.

The reason Clinton is getting so much attention is not just because she's a well-known former first lady or an accomplished senator. It's because among the many women who have vied for the presidency before, Clinton has a real chance to actually win. So far in U.S. history, there has not been a female president or vice president.

But Clinton is seen to be more liberal than her husband Bill, who was considered a moderate. One of her weaknesses is that conservatives tend to have a knee-jerk reaction against her. Another concern is about how much support she can muster among independent voters.

In addition, just being in the main spotlight of a U.S. presidential election doesn't guarantee victory.

To win the Democratic Party nomination, she must prove that she can win the independent vote in a national election. Republicans will no doubt fiercely attack the her for "dividing, not uniting," the country.

The biggest issue in the presidential race will most likely be Iraq. President Bush is sending more troops to the country, but U.S. public is weary of the war. The Democrats have never had a better chance to win back the White House.

But prior to the war, Clinton supported the congressional resolution that gave the president authority to take military action against Iraq. Although Clinton is now critical of the Bush Administration's Middle East policies, the Iraqi situation might not necessarily work in her favor.

Ever since the September 11 attacks, the Bush Administration has thrown international cooperation out the window to pursue unilateral action in the name of the "war against terrorism." The international community has been widely concerned about this.

The United States brought down the regime of Saddam Hussein by force and tried to push "democratization of the Middle East." As a result, the Middle East has fallen even further into turmoil.

No matter who becomes the next U.S. president, we hope that the election will fully expose the extent of "America's failure." We hope the new leader will eventually correct the mistakes and lead the United States on a new path.