Hillary Clinton Weekend Debates: No Buildup and a Sign of Her Strength

The technique, which her advisers fully expect will be tried against whomever her party nominates in 2008, is to put the Democratic candidate into what some Democrats call a "psycho-spiral" through a series of often counterintuitive attacks.

'Can't Let the Opposition Set the Terms'

Yet Clinton has learned to expect the worst, and has already taken measures to head off such assaults.

"If there is one thing that I have learned in my years in politics, it's that you can't let the opposition set the terms of the debate," Clinton wrote in a March 2005 fundraising pitch.

And in another solicitation in November 2005, Clinton said, "As Karl Rove wrote in an e-mail to a New York Republican one year ago, 'We have to do something about her.' Well, I'm going to do something about that."

She was referring, of course, to President Bush's chief political strategist, a man regularly signaled out these days by Bill Clinton for his political skill.

These days, she has her public image firmly in hand.

Rove attributes this change to Clinton gaining her own platform and political post for the first time after decades as her husband's satellite.

"She got a position where she could actually do things and shape her own destiny," Rove said. "It's one thing to be the spouse of the president where his actions and the actions of his staff and his cabinet are going to shape largely how you're perceived, and another one if you're able to shape your own perceptions."

Presidential Candidate Hillary: Her Advantages

If Clinton chooses to run for president in 2008, there is no doubt that she can win.

That is not the same as saying she will win, or even that she is favored to win.

There are too many variables to be able to put practical odds on her chances. But they are far from negligible.

If and when Clinton runs for president, she will bring many advantages to the task.

She is already well known and the most prolific fundraiser in politics beside President Bush.

She is popular with large segments of the electoral pillars of her party, including women, labor unions, African-Americans, Hispanics, and gays and lesbians.

She has been part of the Democratic Party's search for winning policy ideas for more than three decades.

She has close ties to the elected officials, policy experts, activists, consultants, and political operatives that are needed to run for president.

She has been traveling to key early nominating states such as Iowa and New Hampshire for years -- and, more recently, has been hosting important activists from those states at her Washington home.

She knows about the importance of not giving up when conditions look dire in a presidential campaign. She knows about the necessity of projecting optimism, about federal policy in every particular, about the importance of appearing strong and consistent, about how to read a poll, about how critical national security and homeland security are to the job of president.

She knows about the imperative of addressing perceived flaws with alacrity, about how values voters think, about keeping a keen focus on the Electoral College, and about why it is vital to reflect on the strengths and weaknesses of both parties when formulating a campaign platform.

Has Learned Well From Her Husband -- and Bush and Rove

In these areas, she has learned a lot from her chief political adviser -- her husband, the 42nd president of the United States.

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