Hedging Hillary's Chances for the White House

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., may have accepted her party's nomination for a second term as the New York senator in Buffalo today, but she sure didn't sound as if she was running only for that seat.

"We need a fundamentally new direction … solutions that help us meet our 21st century challenges of expanding our economy, defending our security and preserving our values," the Democratic senator said.

Although the presidential election is more than two years away, Democrats in attendance were abuzz about Clinton's possible presidential prospects.

"I think that everybody agrees that she will be the Democratic candidate and that's not in question," said former New York Mayor Ed Koch.

"There is no question that 2008 is in her mind," said former Democratic National Committee Chairman Don Fowler. "I think it's reasonable to expect whatever she does might have that as a backdrop."

Would Americans Embrace Candidate Clinton?

A new ABC News/Washington Post Poll shows a huge gender gap among Clinton supporters, even among Democrats, with women more likely to support Clinton than men by a margin of 13 points.

The gap continues with Republicans, where three in 10 women indicated a willingness to support Clinton compared with two out of 10 Republican men.

While Clinton has proved popular with the Democratic base in places like New York City, she is much weaker with the political center, the moderates and Independents in states like Ohio and Florida that she will need to win a general election.

A daunting 42 percent of all Americans say they'd never vote for her for president.

That statistic worries many local Democratic officials, including one from Greene County Missouri, where Bill Clinton won both his presidential runs.

"We really do need a nominee I think who can appeal to those moderate Republican voters and Independents," said Nora Walcott, executive director of the Greene County Democratic Party. "I am just not personally sure that Senator Clinton is that candidate."

Clinton Promotes Clinton in New Campaign Video

Clinton is now taking steps to address the concerns about her appeal by positioning herself as a moderate and unveiling a campaign video that includes the New York skeptics she has already won over, such as the New York local firefighter's union chief.

"We didn't endorse Senator Clinton, I just want to be upfront with that. We endorsed Rick Lazio," Clinton's challenger in 2000, said Uniformed Firefighters Association President Peter L. Gorman. "It didn't make a difference to her."

Another woman on the tape said she didn't vote for Clinton in her first Senate bid, but now she is "one of her biggest supporters."

"I didn't vote for her. I think I will this next election," said another man on the video.

The message seems to be that if Clinton could win over skeptics in the Empire State -- and the more conservative voters in upstate New York -- she can do the same in Iowa, Ohio and Florida.

"Upstate New York is like Middle America," said Democratic advocate Donna Brazile. "And they're the type of voter she will need to win and pull together if she decides to run in 2008."

Some supporters point out that Clinton comes from Illinois and spent years in Arkansas.

But not everyone buys that argument.

"I think that having gone to Washington, and been there so long, and now being in New York as a senator really does tie her pretty tightly to the East Coast establishment," Walcott said.

Disputing such claims that Clinton can't win a general election is her husband. He contributed to the new campaign video saying that "so-called experts" have "counted her out a lot of times."

"He can create news, he can create buzz," Brazile said. "He also can cause what I call a lot of drama in a campaign … she must become the center of attention."

And that worked today in Buffalo, where Clinton ended her speech with a rallying cry for the Democratic Party in 2008.

"We can reclaim our country. We can assume our standing in the world. And we can send a message far and wide: America is back," she said, sounding presidential on the Buffalo stage, even while many Democrats worry that she can't get elected.

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