ALBANY, N.Y. – Attacking Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (search) as a climber focused on becoming president might not win Jeanine Pirro (search) an election, but it could whip the country's Republicans into a fundraising frenzy as they try to knock off the Democrats' biggest star.
At her official campaign announcement in New York, Pirro, the Westchester County district attorney, repackaged complaints made years earlier by Clinton's last opponent, then-congressman Rick Lazio (search). Lazio spent nearly $40 million and lost.
Polls show New York voters are not incensed by the thought of Clinton running for president two years into a second Senate term.
But, analysts say, the notion still enrages so-called broken glass Republicans, a term coined in 2000 to describe those supposedly so intent on wiping out any vestiges of the Clinton administration that they would be willing to do anything, including walk over broken glass.
"This kind of appeal is a good seed catalogue," said Jack Pitney, a onetime Republican National Committee official and ex-aide to former New York Sen. Al D'Amato who is now a professor at Claremont McKenna College in California.
"It's not an appeal that tends to work with the electorate, but Pirro's going to be able to raise a lot of money from people around the country," Pitney said.
"Six years ago Republicans tried this line of attack and failed. Today each of the Republicans is using the same old negative attacks again," said Clinton campaign spokesman Howard Wolfson.
Lazio appealed to donors by hammering Clinton as an out-of-state carpetbagger using New York as a stepping stone to the White House. More than half of Lazio's funds came from out-of-state donors, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
Clinton responded to his carpetbagger taunts by saying the race was "not about who's from New York" but about the issues. "While my opponent tells you where he's from, I tell you what I'm for," she said.
Clinton won the Senate seat handily in 2000, 55 percent to 43 percent, even though some 40 percent of New York voters thought Clinton would run for president in 2004.
Skip ahead, and that stepping stone Lazio talked about is now a "doormat" according to Pirro.
"New York deserves a senator who has New York's interests at heart — not the divided loyalties of one seeking to satisfy the needs of people in Iowa, New Hampshire or Florida," Pirro said in her kickoff campaign speech at a Manhattan hotel.
National polls have shown Clinton is the leading contender for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination, though the former first lady has said she is focused on her Senate re-election bid and is not thinking about a run for the White House.
A Marist College Institute poll taken just before Pirro announced her candidacy found 55 percent of voters think Clinton will try to use her position for a national campaign. Thirty-five percent wanted her to run for the White House.
The poll found 39 percent believed Clinton should commit to serve out a full second term in the Senate, as Pirro has demanded, while 44 percent believe she should not make such a pledge.
"New Yorkers have always shown that they really don't care about that kind of issue. In fact, they prefer it when their senators and governors are national figures," said Steve Cohen, a political science professor at Columbia University.
Clinton has already raised $13 million for her race, including $6 million between April and June of this year, a remarkable sum for an election more than a year away.
This week, Pirro hired veteran Republican fundraiser Mark Miller to raise money for her campaign, but would not disclose how much money she has raised thus far.
The 2000 campaign broke fundraising records as she and Lazio together spent about $70 million. A strong showing in next year's race could give added momentum to Clinton's early front-runner status among possible Democratic candidates in 2008. A bruising contest could slow her down.
To even compete against Clinton, Pirro must first win a Republican primary against three prospective candidates: Ed Cox, a son-in-law of the late President Richard Nixon; former Yonkers Mayor John Spencer; and William Brenner, a tax attorney from Sullivan County.