Clinton election gurus flock to Hillary's campaign

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The Independent Online
BILL CLINTON may have no more elections to fight, but the aggressive campaigners who helped him to two White House victories will not be out of a job. Already, the elite of his team are coalescing around a new candidate: the aspiring Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton.

When Mrs Clinton finally made known her intention to run for the Senate from New York last week, or at least was formally studying the prospects, the first announcement came not from her but from Harold Ickes. It was Mr Ickes, a former deputy White House chief of staff, ultra-sharp lawyer and presidential golfing partner, who disclosed that she would set up an exploratory committee next month.

Often referred to as a Clintonian Svengali, Mr Ickeshas been a confidant to both Bill and Hillary Clinton since their Arkansas days, and while his metier is intellect not charm, he is someone it is better to have on your side than not.

Other names reported as signing up for Mrs Clinton's senatorial campaign comprise a veritable "dream team" of staff.

Among them is James Carville - he of the rottweiler manner - whose most recent success was the landslide victory for the Labour party leader, Ehud Barak, in Israel's general election. A Louisiana native who speaks at breakneck speed, Mr Carville was Mr Clinton's chief strategist and spokesman during his first presidential campaign. He was also his most voluble advocate during the early months of the Monica Lewinsky affair, hunting down "right-wing conspirators" everywhere. His lapse into silence was the clearest sign that the President was in real trouble, but he was back with a vengeance after the Senate acquittal.

Mr Carville's wife, Mary Matalin, whom he married soon after the 1992 campaign, was chief spokesman for the sitting president and eventual loser, George Bush. The two have made a media career out of their ideological sparring.

According to one report, the outgoing Treasury Secretary, Robert Rubin, who is credited with helping the United States to its current economic boom, is to lead Mrs Clinton's fund-raising effort. As Mr Rubin is returning to New York, where he was a supremely successful Wall Street trader, there could hardly be a better choice for the role. If , as is mooted, Erskine Bowles, White House chief of staff until last summer, also joins the team, Mrs Clinton will have only herself to blame if she loses.

The alacrity with which such luminaries are gathering around Mrs Clinton says much about the magnetism of the Clintons and the aura of success that already, perhaps prematurely, surrounds the incipient campaign. Nor should the benefits of Bill Clinton's own involvement - as active campaigner or passive well-wisher - be under-estimated. That they have all worked as a team in the past is a further plus.

What is good for Mrs Clinton's prospects, however, could be a setback for Mr Clinton's designated White House successor, Al Gore. At best, Mr Gore will have to share the services of this "dream team"; at worst he will have to seek out his own.