Tuesday, December 5, 2006

Speculation about the presidential plans of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton has reached a fevered pitch this week as newspapers and Web sites scramble to be the first with the big headline that the former first lady will run.

“I’m In,” blared the front page of yesterday’s New York Post. “Hill ‘really going’ for prez run.”

The Des Moines Register, always a close observer of presidential nominating contests, went microscopic with its own “exclusive” on its Web site Monday: “Hillary Clinton begins calling Iowa Democrats.”

Throughout the weekend, the Drudge Report had rolling exclamation-punctuated headlines: “She is thinking about it,” “She Is” and “Hello, Iowa.”

Certainly, said a spokeswoman for Mrs. Clinton, the New York senator is actively weighing whether to run for president in 2008.

“After her election, she said she was going to look at this,” Lorraine Voles, Mrs. Clinton’s communications director, said yesterday. “As part of that process, she has been making some phone calls.”

After calling friends and supporters around New York, she also called a handful of key Democrats in Iowa, which will host the first caucuses of the Democratic primary in 13 months. She has not, however, made plans to travel to Iowa, Ms. Voles said.

Mrs. Clinton’s moves come after several other Democrats have sent signals in recent days that they are either running for the nomination or seriously considering it.

Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack last week announced that he would run. Indiana Sen. Evan Bayh filed papers yesterday to officially create a presidential exploratory committee.

“I will talk to my family over the holidays and make a final decision and an announcement after the first of the year,” Mr. Bayh said.

And former vice presidential nominee John Edwards continues to heavily court Iowa voters and hire political staff.

In June, a Des Moines Register poll found that among likely caucusgoers, Mr. Edwards led the pack of likely candidates with 30 percent. Mrs. Clinton trailed slightly with 26 percent. Sen. John Kerry, the Massachusetts Democrat who was the 2004 nominee, took third with 12 percent, and Mr. Vilsack won 10 percent.

In addition to reaching out to Democrats in New York and Iowa, Mrs. Clinton also has hired some new political staff recently. She’s brought on board Phil Singer, who is just off a major victory, working for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC). Mrs. Clinton also has hired Karen Hicks, who served as Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean’s New Hampshire field organizer when he ran for the Democratic nomination in 2004. Also, she’s picked up national finance director Jonathan Mantz, a well-regarded operative who has worked for the DSCC and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

But, as she has throughout her six years on Capitol Hill, Mrs. Clinton isn’t taking anyone in her adopted home state for granted. Among those she called this week was Rep. Joseph Crowley, New York Democrat.

“I don’t think she ever outright said it, but there’s no doubt in my mind that she’s going to run,” he said. “It was a very exciting and exhilarating conversation. I don’t know how often it happens in a lifetime when someone calls you up and says, ‘I want you to know I’m doing this and I want your support.’ ”

• This article is based in part on wire-service reports.

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