- The Washington Times - Saturday, January 20, 2007

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton — newly re-elected to the Senate representing the state of New York — formed a presidential exploratory committee yesterday with hopes of returning to the White House eight years after departing as first lady.

On her campaign Web site, she wrote: “I’m in. And I’m in to win.”

“I’m not just starting a campaign, though, I’m beginning a conversation — with you, with America,” she said in a video announcement posted yesterday on the site. “Because we all need to be part of the discussion if we’re all going to be part of the solution. And all of us have to be part of the solution.”

A front-runner even before she entered the contest, Mrs. Clinton made her announcement just days after Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois said on his Web site that he, too, intends to run for president. New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson is expected to announce his own presidential bid today.

The announcements set up a historic race that will include Mrs. Clinton, who would be the first female president if elected; Mr. Obama, who would be the first black president; and Mr. Richardson, who would become the first Hispanic president.

The Clinton campaign quickly seized upon its front-runner status yesterday by going directly into full-campaign mode, issuing statements and updates throughout the day.

“Demonstrating the ground-swell of enthusiasm generated by her historic candidacy, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton’s announcement for president lit up the Internet today, garnering rave reviews in the blogosphere and thousands of supporters flocking to her Web site each hour,” the campaign reported yesterday afternoon.

The air of inevitability that Mrs. Clinton will receive the Democratic nomination is crucial for fundraising, an art that Mrs. Clinton already has mastered. She has more than $14 million in her campaign account after spending more than $30 million in a decisive victory over her underfunded Republican challenger in November’s election.

In another announcement yesterday, the Clinton campaign touted the latest poll conducted by The Washington Post and ABC News showing Mrs. Clinton with a commanding lead over the entire field of potential Democratic hopefuls.

Mrs. Clinton garnered 41 percent among Democrats; Mr. Obama took 17 percent; and former Sen. John Edwards, the North Carolina Democrat who was his party’s 2004 vice presidential nominee, netted 11 percent. Former Vice President Al Gore garnered 10 percent, and Sen. John Kerry, the 2004 Democratic presidential nominee, drew 8 percent. No other potential candidates earned more than 3 percent.

The poll, conducted last week among 561 Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents, shows virtually no change from last month, suggesting that the intense buzz surrounding Mr. Obama’s candidacy has had little real impact.

Mr. Obama issued a statement welcoming Mrs. Clinton to the contest.

“Senator Clinton is a good friend and a colleague whom I greatly respect,” he said. “I welcome her and all the candidates, not as competitors, but as allies in the work of getting our country back on track.”

In her announcement, Mrs. Clinton laid out several key issues she hopes to address in her campaign, leading with an attempt to disarm one of the most explosive obstacles in her path to the nomination: her 2002 vote authorizing the war in Iraq.

“Let’s talk about how to bring the right end to the war in Iraq and to restore respect for America around the world,” she said, seated on a sofa beside a large cushion embroidered with a floral pattern.

Mrs. Clinton also mentioned her hope for energy independence, an “end to the deficits that threaten Social Security and Medicare,” and “how every American can have quality, affordable health care.”

Mrs. Clinton also tried tapping into the general exhaustion over the current administration.

“You know, after six years of George Bush, it is time to renew the promise of America,” she said.

Also announcing his presidential intentions yesterday was Sen. Sam Brownback, the Kansas Republican whose staunch pro-life positions have endeared him to many Christian conservatives.

Last week, Mr. Brownback offered a bleak assessment of the Iraq war and said he opposes Mr. Bush’s plan to increase the number of troops in Iraq. But in his announcement address yesterday, he sounded a more optimistic tone.

“It is a long fight. We will win,” he told an audience in his hometown of Topeka. “We cannot lose our will to win. We must win to redeem our troops’ sacrifice.”

The Washington Post/ABC poll showed Mr. Brownback lingering at the back of the pack, with about 1 percent support from Republicans.

Leading the Republican field was former New York City Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani with 34 percent, followed by Sen. John McCain of Arizona with 27 percent. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich each garnered 9 percent.

The survey of Democrats had a margin of error of 4 percentage points. The survey of Republicans had a margin of error of 5 percentage points.

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