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Hillary Clinton Takes Her Politics to the National Stage

A recent fundraising letter from Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, who is seeking re-election this year in New York, does not mention the state, but it slips eight references to "America" or "Americans" into two pages.

The letter points to a fact of life in the world of New York's junior senator, who many think may be a contender for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination: The national stage is there, and she is making use of it.

In recent weeks, the wife of former President Bill Clinton has begun a series of national policy addresses. The economy was the topic in Chicago in April, and it was energy during a speech in Washington in May. The focus was on privacy in a Friday address to the American Constitution Society in Washington.

At the end of next month, Clinton gives her report to the moderate Democratic Leadership Conference meeting in Denver on the "American Dream Initiative" effort she has led to devise an agenda for the country and party.

Unlike earlier fundraising appeals, the recent letter contains no mention of potential Senate race opponents. There is plenty of talk about national Republicans and their apparent dislike for her.

"My name is at the top of their list," her Friends of Hillary letter begins as she quickly launches into an attack on "Washington Republicans."

"The Republicans can't stomach the fact that I'm leading the fight against their misplaced priorities," Clinton writes. "That's why Karl Rove was quoted as saying, `We have to do something about her.'

"It's no secret that they are willing to spend millions of dollars to tear me down between now and Election Day," she adds.

"It's blatant talk about a presidential run that doesn't even attempt to conceal the fact that she's looking ahead to '08," said Brian Nick, a spokesman for the National Republican Senatorial Committee.

Not so, said Clinton campaign spokeswoman Ann Lewis.

"We talk about national priorities because we know that's a big concern for our supporters," Lewis said. "This letter goes to donors around country who support HRC because she is a leader on issues they care about.

"This is about the '06 campaign and making sure we have the resources," said Lewis, noting that the particular letter has been used for several months.

At the end of March, Clinton already had a very big resource advantage — $20 million (euro15.8 million), according to federal campaign filings. Former Yonkers Mayor John Spencer and Reagan-era Pentagon official Kathleen Troia "KT" McFarland, who are competing for the GOP Senate nomination, each had less than $500,000 (euro400,000) on hand.

Statewide polls have Clinton with 2-1 leads over Spencer or McFarland, and national polls put her atop the list of potential Democratic presidential contenders.

"If re-elected, Senator Clinton won't be in the Senate or in Syracuse, she will be gallivanting through the cornfields of Iowa or fundraising in Hollywood with Barbara Streisand, Warren Beatty and Sean Penn," said Spencer's campaign manager, Kevin Collins. "She's already a carpetbagger, now she's an absentee landlord too."

In her more than 30-minute speech to the Democratic state convention in Buffalo two weeks ago, Clinton bashed the Bush administration repeatedly.

"We need a fundamentally new direction," she said as her smiling husband applauded from the audience.

"With hard work, we will take our country back," she promised.

"Mrs. Clinton is an ambitious woman, and I have no problem with that," McFarland told the Associated Press on Wednesday. "But it has become increasingly obvious that her focus is on national politics, not New York. That's unfortunate, because 20 million New Yorkers deserve a senator who is committed full-time to their interests and to their interests alone."

"It's a delicate balance because she is running for re-election now," said Chicago-based Democratic consultant David Axelrod. "But by speaking out on these issues, she fulfills her obligation as a national leader — and she is viewed as a national leader — and she's also speaking out on issues that are important to New Yorkers."

"It serves her interests in running for re-election," said Axelrod, who is not involved with the Clinton campaign. "And it strengthens her if she makes the decision to go forward on the other front."