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Sen. Clinton deflects presidential questions

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton deflected queries Monday about a national magazine cover story devoted to her possible presidential ambitions.
/ Source: The Associated Press

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton deflected queries Monday about a national magazine cover story devoted to her possible presidential ambitions.

Speaking to reporters after a tour of a Rochester health center, Clinton fended off a round of new questions on her political future stemming from the Time magazine story, titled, "The Presidential Ambitions of Hillary Clinton." She also sidestepped questions about an anti-war activist challenging her in the Sept. 12 Democratic primary as pressure on her to debate him increased.

While the Time article shed little light on whether she intends to seek the Democratic presidential nomination in 2008, its appearance fueled considerable buzz at an event designed ostensibly to promote her Senate re-election.

"I'm going to do the job I have, which is being the senator from New York," Clinton said. "I really am hopeful that we will stay focused. We need to come up with creative solutions right here in New York for New York issues and problems."

Favorable impressions
Among other things, the article featured results of a new Time poll indicating Clinton would be a plausible presidential candidate if she chose to run.

The poll said 53 percent of Americans had a favorable impression of her. It also suggested she would run neck and neck with a potential Republican contender, Arizona Sen. John McCain, in a hypothetical matchup.

Polls in New York show Clinton heavily favored to win re-election against two little-known Republicans competing to challenge her in November: former Yonkers Mayor John Spencer and Reagan-era Pentagon official Kathleen Troia McFarland. McFarland announced Monday she would temporarily suspend her campaign activities following her teenage daughter's arrest on a shoplifting charge.

Call for debate
Clinton first faces a primary challenge from Jonathan Tasini, a labor organizer and anti-war activist who has tried to draw attention to Clinton's 2002 vote to authorize military intervention in Iraq.

Clinton has almost completely ignored Tasini's candidacy, and Tasini has raised little money and remains largely unknown to most voters. Still, calls for Clinton to debate Tasini have begun to mount, in light of the upset victory in Connecticut of an anti-war Democrat, Ned Lamont, over incumbent Joe Lieberman earlier this month.

On Monday, The New York Times joined several other news organizations in calling for Clinton to agree to a debate.

"Since Mr. Tasini is running an anti-war campaign, it would be very useful for New Yorkers to have a chance to hear the two Democratic candidates debate that one issue," a Times editorial said. "She has not been forced to discuss in great detail exactly what she thinks should be done now that things have gone so awry in the Middle East."

When asked about the editorial and her latest thinking on a possible debate, Clinton did not stray from her stock answer.

"We're just going to see how the campaign develops, how it plays out over the next couple of weeks," she said.

Iraq war concerns
She used a question about the Iraq war to reiterate her criticism the Bush administration's handling of the war, a strategy many critics say she has adopted to shift focus from her refusal to recant her support for the initial invasion.

"I just have to hold the administration accountable for its many failures and strategic blunders in Iraq," she said. "I feel very sorry for the people of Iraq who are suffering under the onslaught of politically motivated violence, sectarian revenge violence and criminal activity."

Tasini issued a new statement stemming from the Times editorial.

"Voices from across the spectrum are calling on Hillary Clinton to stop hiding behind her political machine and come out and debate the issues," he said.