NEW YORK – Hillary Rodham Clinton expressed confidence Sunday in her presidential prospects and said she awaits a spirited contest for the 2008 Democratic nomination.
"I'm looking forward to it. It'll be a great contest with a lot of talented people and I'm very confident. I'm in, I'm in it to win and that's what I intend to do," she said after her first public appearance since announcing her candidacy Saturday.
The New York senator said she decided to run after talking to family, friends and supporters since her re-election in November.
"It was a thorough review for me about the problems we confront in the country, the particular strengths and talents I would bring — both to the race and the White House," Clinton said.
"I concluded, based on the work of my lifetime and my experience and my understanding of what our country has to confront in order to continue to make opportunity available to all of our citizens here and to restore our leadership and respect of America around the world, that I would be able to do that — to bring our country together to meet those tough challenges," she said.
The former first lady answered questions after promoting legislation that she said would improve health care for children.
"In the richest of all countries we have both the obligation, and now the opportunity, to make sure no child does go without health insurance," Clinton said at a community health center.
"It's simply wrong for any child to lack health care in America. That's where we start," she said.
Earlier Sunday, one of her White House rivals said Clinton is the favorite right now for the Democratic nomination, but the party is a "lifetime" away from making its 2008 choice.
"I think she's incredibly formidable and has got to be the front-runner and the odds-on pick right now. But this is a marathon. There's a long way to go," said Sen. Joe Biden, D-Del.
The former first lady and current New York senator joined the race on Saturday, hoping to become the first female president.
A crowded field of Democratic candidates is led by Clinton, Illinois Sen. Barack Obama and 2004 vice presidential nominee John Edwards. New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson jumped in on Sunday.
A Washington Post-ABC News poll released Sunday showed that Clinton was the favorite of 41 percent of Democrats, more than double the support of any of her rivals.
Biden, however, said he did not look at the race as Clinton's to lose.
"Look, listen, we're a lifetime away. Hillary Clinton is going to have to make her best case. And there's a lot of us out there that are known but in a sense not known, and we're going to make our best case. And I don't think Hillary's best case versus mine or Barack's or anybody else's necessarily trumps us," said Biden, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
Clinton made her announcement on a video posted Saturday on her Web site. Obama said last week he was setting up a committee to raise money and gauge support for a run.
Former Republican House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who is considering a 2008 bid, said he thought Obama "forced Senator Clinton's hand by weeks. I mean, he has gained ground so rapidly that I think she sort of thought she had to remind her friends she was around."
Gingrich said Clinton "can raise far more resources than any other Democrat, probably raise more resources than all the other Democrats combined. And you'd have to say, given those assets, that she has a six-out-of-10 chance or better of being the Democratic nominee."
Clinton's controversial tenure as first lady left her a deeply polarizing figure among voters, leading many Democrats to doubt her viability in a general election.
"I don't think that's true," said Sen. Carl Levin, a Michigan Democrat. "I think that we have a lot of candidates there that are able to not only win the nomination but also win the election."
Levin, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said "there's a Democratic tide that is running in this country for good reasons. I think six years of the Bush administration have given people a lot of reasons to look for Democratic alternatives."
It is up to Democrats now, he said, "to really show what those alternatives are in the next two years in Congress, now controlled by Democrats. And I'm very confident that the strongest candidate will emerge, but we don't know who that Democrat is yet."