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

But more than any other Democrat, she has also learned plenty of lessons from George W. Bush and Rove and their way to win -- the importance of ideas, of knowing a lot of people, of building a campaign on relationships and not transactions, of voter contact, of bringing in talented people and the best technology, of having a campaign team that gets along, of meticulous planning, of learning from history, and of accountability for results.

She displays a passionate disdain for many of Bush's goals, but an appreciation for some of the methods he has used to achieve them.

Bill and Hillary Clintons' anger at how they lost control of their public image in the 1990s remains just inches beneath the surface for both of them.

Her determination -- and proven ability -- to avoid a repeat of this experience is what pegs her as arguably the most important politician in America today.

Every political move she has made for the last six years reflects lessons she learned the hard way in the previous nine years.

Every important question about her political fate between now and 2008 -- and beyond -- hinges in great measure on whether she can adapt these lessons to what would be new and more challenging circumstances.

The lack of tension leading up to this weekend's debates shows how far Clinton has come in politics.

But shortly after her expected re-election on Nov. 7, the questions of how much further she wants to go, and can go, will begin to be answered, under far different circumstances.

This article is adapted from The Way to Win: Taking the White House in 2008, by Mark Halperin of ABC News and John F. Harris of the Washington Post. Go to thewaytowin2008.com to find out more.

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