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msnbc.com
updated 10/12/2006 5:08:45 PM ET 2006-10-12T21:08:45

If – and I stress if – Democrats take control of the House, we will see something dramatically new. For the first time, the crucial (Democratic) conversations in politics will be between women: Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Speaker Nancy Pelosi. No longer a “movement” eager for a role in politics and government, women are becoming politics and government.

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The Clinton-Pelosi dialogue would be central to the politics of the next few years. Clinton, who wants to run as a centrist in ’08, will need Pelosi to rein in the jihadis of the Democrats’ left wing; Pelosi, anxious to show she can run the Hill, will want the support of the party’s presumptive presidential frontrunner without seeming to play favorites in what could be a very large field.

The two women have expressed mutual admiration for each other. Clinton (with her husband) recently hosted at their home here a fundraiser for the Democrats’ House campaign committee. The toasts were jovial at the private event, I am told, but Pelosi and Clinton aren’t personally close. That is likely to change.

One personal connection that will grow in importance: Terri McCullough, chief of staff of Pelosi’s California House office on the Hill, is married to Howard Wolfson, Hillary’s communications advisor in New York City.

2006 key races

In a way, there is nothing remarkable about any of this: we’re talking here about pols doing their jobs. But it is remarkable precisely because it isn’t remarkable any more. There is a critical mass of women in the operational ranks of power. It’s no longer isolated stars – a Hillary, a Condi Rice– it’s a constellation.

Planet Hillary is populated with savvy, politically experienced women. One of them is Patti Solis Doyle, who runs Clinton’s PAC but who really serves as proto-campaign manager for the presidential run. “She’s the most important person in Washington most people haven’t heard of,” said Wolfson. “That will change.”

Other women with key Clinton roles include: Media/message advisor Mandy Grunwald, who served Bill Clinton and who is, arguably, the leading Democratic practitioner of those arts; her longtime White House chiefs of staff Melanne Verveer and Maggie Williams; Senate chief of staff Tamara Luzzatto; and, if she doesn’t take a clerkship after Yale Law School, former (and perhaps future) press secretary Karen Dunn.

A key figure in the labor movement – a mainstay of the Democratic Party now more than ever – is Anna Burger. A longtime organizer and strategist, she heads Change to Win, the breakaway group of major unions that is trying to put new energy into the union grassroots.

In foreign policy and intelligence matters, former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright remains a key figure – and a best selling author – and is involved in briefing a whole range of Democratic presidential contenders. If the Dems take the House back, Rep. Jane Harman of California is in line to become chair of the House Intelligence Committee. She and Pelosi have been enemies politically. But Harman has gotten excellent notices for her work on intel matters, and she has worked hard – and with some success – to patch up relations with Pelosi and with critics who thought she was too supportive of the war in Iraq.

All of these political types confront (or deal with) a media establishment in which women are, for the first time, fully in the management ranks. It’s an astonishing list. Here is some of it: At The New York Times, News Managing Editor Jill Abramson and Editorial Page Editor Gail Collins (soon to step down), are the first women to hold those jobs. Other names on the list are just as impressive: Katie Couric of CBS, the first female solo network news anchor; Tammy Haddad, MSNBC’s vice president for Washington; Elizabeth Wilner , political director of NBC News; Virginia Moseley, senior political director of ABC. Kim Hume is leaving soon as bureau chief at Fox News in Washington, but women are in charge of bureaus at CBS (Janet Leissner) and ABC (Robin Sproul). Outside of Washington, Arianna Huffington has turned her Huffington Post website into a political clearinghouse.

On the right, Ann Coulter, Michelle Malkin, Laura Ingraham and Mary Matalin are leading media forces – on television, on the best-seller list, on the radio and on the web.

One last name: Deirdre Imus. She has the toughest media management job of all. She is a leading environmental and children's-health advocate and runs a major foundation, but also has an important responsibility: her husband.

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