Monday, May. 08, 2006

Hillary Rodham Clinton

In the early going for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination, this former First Lady and New York Senator is virtually lapping the field. The mere thought of a Hillary Clinton presidential bid is shaping Republican primary politics for 2008.

In the Senate, a small body of big egos, Senator Clinton, 58, is sought out by her colleagues to form legislative partnerships. Her high-profile status, combined with a reputation as a smart, prepared, serious Senator, creates real influence. In a short time, this blue-state Senator with a blue-state perspective has managed to build unusual political alliances on a variety of issues with Republicans Bill Frist, Sam Brownback, Elizabeth Dole, Rick Santorum and other conservatives.

As a red-state conservative, I have found common ground with her on improving health-care benefits for members of the National Guard and Reserve. We also created a bipartisan Manufacturing Caucus to help promote and address the problems facing America's manufacturers.

Hillary Clinton's political future is both unpredictable and unlimited. She already has very high name recognition combined with a political network second to none. She has one of the best political strategists in history — former President Bill Clinton — on her team. And money will never be a problem. Senator Clinton would be a formidable opponent for Republicans in November 2008 as the nation remains closely divided. Some say she cannot be elected President. I say those who underestimate Hillary Clinton do so at their own peril.

Graham is a Republican U.S. Senator from South Carolina