NEW YORK - Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton met on Sunday with New York's
Democratic governor-elect to solicit his support for her likely White House bid,
the latest indication she is stepping up plans to join a growing field of
potential contenders for 2008.
One rival, Indiana Sen. Evan
Bayh, announced Sunday he was establishing an exploratory committee to raise
money for a possible presidential run. He expects to decide over the Christmas
holidays whether to seek his party's nomination.
In this photo provided by ABC News, Sen. Evan Bayh, D-Ind.,
talks outside after appearing for an interview with George Stephanopolous
on ABC's This Week, in Washington, Sunday, Dec. 3, 2006. [AP]
A top aide to Clinton said he did not know when the former first lady would
decide about pursuing the presidency or set up an exploratory committee. Clinton
aides, however, have begun interviewing possible campaign staffers in recent
weeks, Howard Wolfson said.
Clinton, who long has topped national polls of Democratic hopefuls, spent two
hours with Gov.-elect Eliot Spitzer at his Manhattan home.
"We just had a great, wide-ranging meeting on so many issues that affect the
city, the state and the country," Clinton said as she left the meeting.
Last week she contacted leading state lawmakers, including Democratic Reps.
Charles Rangel and Nita Lowey, and the state party chairman, Denny Farrell, to
assess her prospects and seek their support.
Clinton's Senate colleague, Chuck Schumer, told reporters Sunday that Clinton
had called him to arrange a meeting next week. But he was coy about the purpose
of the get-together.
"She wants to sit down and talk next week, which we're going to do. It could
be about legislation. I have no idea what it's about, and until we sit down and
talk that's all I'm going to say about it," said Schumer. He added, "I think
she'd make a very good president but let's wait and see. Everyone's sort of
jumping the gun."
Wolfson told The Associated Press that Clinton "is reaching out to her
colleagues in the New York delegation and asking for their advice and counsel
and their support if she decides to make a run."
Clinton easily won re-election last month to a second term in the Senate.
Wolfson noted that Clinton long has said she would begin actively considering a
presidential bid after that election. "That process has begun," Wolfson said.
Thirteen months before the first votes are cast in the nomination process,
the presidential jockeying has intensified in both parties.
Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack announced his bid for the Democratic nod last week;
Bayh is taking the initial steps; and others, such as the party's 2004 ticket of
Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry and former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards, are
weighing possible runs.
The effort comes as Illinois Sen. Barack Obama, a rising star in Democratic
politics, enjoys a wave of publicity and momentum around a possible White House
Obama, a clear challenger to Clinton's front-runner status, has appeared
before huge crowds around the country, promoting his best-selling book, "The
Audacity of Hope."
He met with aides in Chicago last week and they expect him to disclose his
intentions about a 2008 run in a matter of weeks.
On the Republican side, Sen. John McCain of Arizona and former New York Mayor
Rudy Giuliani have established exploratory committees; so, too, has long-shot
candidate Rep. Duncan Hunter of California. Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney is
moving toward a possible bid and Kansas Sen. Sam Brownback is expected to
announce soon about his intentions.
Bayh, appearing on ABC's "This Week," acknowledged he was not well-known
outside Washington and Indiana, but said he had the credentials necessary to be
an effective president.
"As the people get to know me, I think we'll do very well. I've been a
successful two-term governor with a record of delivering results. I now have
national security experience from my presence in the Senate," he said. "Is this
a little bit like David and Goliath? A little bit, but as I recall, David did
Bayh, 50, has charted a relatively centrist course in the Senate. He has
appearances scheduled this week in Iowa and New Hampshire, two states with early
contests on the presidential campaign calendar. As of Sept. 30, he had about
$10.5 million in his Senate campaign account, all of which can be transferred to
a presidential committee.
Clinton, for her part, has as much as US$13 million left from her Senate
race, plus a vast network of donors and advisers led by her husband, former
Vilsack told ABC his candidacy would appeal to a broad range of voters in
states not traditionally friendly to Democrats.
"I think it's important for Democrats to be able to expand. I think our party
has got to expand the map," Vilsack said. "I think we can do this. I think I can
do it. I think I have done it in my state."