Although the senator denies any interest in the presidency, she's becoming the No. 1 target of the right's attack machine.
By David Teather
She has yet to declare any intention of running for president, but the long shadow of Hillary Rodham Clinton over American politics has already prompted Republicans to train their sights on the former first lady. Republican strategist Arthur Finkelstein is reportedly raising $10 million for a political action committee called Stop Her Now. He aims to prevent Clinton's reelection to the Senate next year, and ultimately thwart any bid she makes for the White House.
Stop Her Now is a "527" advocacy group, similar to the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth group, which helped to undermine Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry in last November's election. The groups began to emerge last year after campaign funding reform prevented donors from giving unlimited sums directly to political parties.
Finkelstein, an advisor to New York Gov. George Pataki and Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, is a controversial figure within his party. He raised eyebrows by warning against the influence of evangelical Christians. He is also openly gay, and startled some party supporters when headlines last weekend disclosed that he had recently married his long-term partner.
Although Clinton has refused to be pinned down on a run for president, she is widely seen as a leading contender among Democrats, and her popularity in New York is at an all-time high. She was introduced as "the next great president of the United States of America" at an address in Minnesota over the weekend. One of her advisors told the Associated Press that the Stop Her Now group was evidence that the Republicans planned "a negative campaign of lies and distortion."
The New York Republican Party's chairman has also launched a Stop Hillary Now fundraising drive. In a letter dated April 8 seen by the AP, Stephen Minarik said the campaign "is not merely a race for New York. It's a race for America. Stopping Hillary Rodham Clinton is the most important thing you and I can do as Republicans in the next two years."
Clinton has told potential supporters in an e-mail that she is the "No. 1 target for the rightwing attack machine." Her spokeswoman, Ann Lewis, told the AP that the Clinton campaign was "not surprised that the Republican Party has chosen to wage a personally negative campaign. They don't want to talk about Hillary's record of working for New Yorkers, throughout the state and in the Senate."