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'The most famous person you really don't know'

On the eve of the State the Union, Hillary Clinton talks to TODAY's Meredith Vieira about starting her campaign for President.
/ Source: TODAY

The highest-polling Democrat in the race for president next year says she knows she'll have to shed some of the baggage accumulated during her time spent as first lady in order to win her party's nomination.

Appearing Tuesday on TODAY, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York laughed when host Meredith Vieira asked her about overcoming her well-publicized negatives.

"You're laughing at that?" Vieira asked.

"That's exactly what I ran into when I started campaigning [for the Senate] in New York," Clinton said. "What I have tried to do in New York was to say, 'Here's who I really am. I am the most famous person you really don't know, draw your conclusions. Don't base your conclusion based on what someone says on talk radio or cable TV.'"

The Clinton factorThree days after announcing on her Web site that she is "in it to win," Clinton, 59, said Tuesday she will turn to her husband Bill Clinton, the former president, during her campaign and will tap his wealth of knowledge, wisdom and on-the-job experience.

"He's been my greatest supporter and my most effective counselor. He's a tremendous asset," Hillary Clinton said. "I am going to be looking to him for a lot of advice and guidance."

He also represents some of the negatives she'll have to address, including how she handled the presidential intern sex scandal. But Hillary Clinton insisted that she dealt with her negatives when she was elected to the Senate in 2000 (she was re-elected in 2006 with more than 60 percent of the vote), and she'll overcome them again.

Clinton sidestepped a question about her 2002 Senate vote in favor of authorizing military action in Iraq, saying she preferred to look forward. She stopped stop short of saying she felt the vote was a mistake.

"I've taken responsibility for my vote. [Now] I'm trying to figure out what is the smart, right way to get us out of Iraq," Clinton said.  "If we had known then what we know now, we never would have had a vote and I wouldn't have voted for it," she said.

Clinton recently returned from a visit to Iraq with a starkly different recommendation: that Congress should cap the number of U.S. forces the president can deploy there.

Clinton, seeking to become America's first female president, joins a host of candidates who have their eye on the Democratic nomination. They include Sens. Barack Obama of Illinois, John Kerry of Massachusetts and Joseph Biden of Delaware; former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards; and New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson.