- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 1, 2004

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, fully hyped as a presidential candidate, is poised to make a run for the presidency in 2008, but she has other immediate professional obligations to manage before that can happen.

Mrs. Clinton, New York Democrat, made a dramatic quasi-stump speech last month at the opening of her husband’s library in Little Rock, Ark., remarking that the “past, present and future” of the party was on stage with her.

To her advantage, Mrs. Clinton would not be running against an incumbent and Vice President Dick Cheney is unlikely to run.

However, the Democratic Party is in a precarious position in its search for a candidate who would be attractive to an electorate that is trending consistently conservative. The former first lady would face a mountain of obstacles, aside from her perch on the left.

Mrs. Clinton is clearly a press favorite and a superstar in the party, but no woman has been nominated by either party, no senator has won the presidency since John F. Kennedy in 1960, and no New Yorker has won since Franklin D. Roosevelt won a fourth term in 1944.

New Mexico Democratic Party Chairman John Wertheim said her obstacles are about the same as they would be for any candidate.

“The hurdles are the same for everyone, building a national campaign around the strengths of the party, and ultimately Senator Clinton has to refocus the national attention on crucial economic-equality issues, access to education, jobs and health care,” Mr. Wertheim said. “But, I guess I would say that it is extraordinarily early to be considering a run in 2008 for anybody.”

But Colorado Democratic Party Chairman Christopher T. Gates said the anointment of Mrs. Clinton is a farce, adding that the press has been critical of her and that the idea that she is a favorite so early before the 2008 election is a pipe dream.

“The media has been highly critical of her and has called her problematic. No one has said she is the front-runner, and it is laughable that The Washington Times would surmise that the media has anointed her the candidate in 2008,” Mr. Gates said.

Most Democrats such as Mr. Wertheim say it is too early for either Mrs. Clinton or the party to be considering the presidential candidates, but the party’s outgoing chairman disagrees.

“We have the luxury this time around of being able to run for four years like the Republicans did in 2000,” Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe told party officials in one of his last speeches.

Mr. McAuliffe says the party is well-positioned financially and structurally to finance its gubernatorial, congressional and presidential elections going into the next four years, having raised and spent nearly $400 million in the 2004 races.

“[Last] month alone, we have raised $8 million after the election,” he said.

Others in the party say the first priority is to find new leadership and then to pursue the presidency.

“I think it is too early to understand what type of candidate they want. What they should do is assess the situation that happened in ‘04 and pick a chairman accordingly,” said Morris Reid, a Democratic strategist and Clinton administration staffer.

Mr. Reid said the party shouldn’t be rushing into anything other than determining a way to attract more voters and simplify its message. He said Mrs. Clinton is the “superstar of the party, even bigger than Bill,” but she has other issues to worry about.

“Hillary has a responsibility to the voters of New York state, and she needs to focus on her re-election efforts; that is her only obligation,” Mr. Reid said. “Post that, she is entitled to do what any other person is allowed to do and explore other options.”

He said the Democrats would benefit more if she maintained her position in the Senate and became a “rainmaker,” much like Massachusetts Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, who has been in that role more than 30 years.

The reality, he said, is that the party is not benefiting from the Hillary Clinton-presidential-bid speculation, and Republicans are: “They write checks to their party because she is their boogeyman. They don’t fear anyone else as much as they do Hillary Clinton.”

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