updated 5/17/2005 2:11:37 PM ET 2005-05-17T18:11:37

Republican Edward Cox, a son-in-law of President Nixon, will soon form an exploratory committee for an expected run against Democratic Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, a top adviser said Tuesday.

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Lynn Mueller, an Albany-based consultant, said the budding campaign has already hired fundraisers and a pollster.

Asked about the chances that Cox will challenge Clinton for re-election in 2006, Mueller said: “It’s as close to 100 percent as you can get unless something bizarre happens, which we don’t expect.”

Mueller said a federal campaign committee will probably be operating by the end of June and a formal announcement will probably come this fall.

GOP leaders have been looking for a strong challenger to beat or at least bloody Clinton in 2006 and make a 2008 presidential bid by her more difficult. Polls show the former first lady is the Democratic front-runner for the White House nomination.

Cox, 58, married Tricia Nixon in a Rose Garden ceremony in 1971. A graduate of Harvard Law School, he worked with consumer advocate Ralph Nader and is a partner in the law firm of Patterson, Belknap, Webb & Tyler.

Clinton, as a young lawyer, worked in Washington on the impeachment proceedings against Nixon.

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