By Phil Hirschkorn
Hillary Rodham Clinton is waiting in the wings with 13 million reasons to smile. As the junior Senator from New York calls and meets longtime supporters to test the waters for a presidential run, she is already drowning in campaign cash.
In the month since Election Day, a parade of Presidential hopefuls (not including Sen. Clinton) have begun trekking to the early battlegrounds of Iowa and New Hampshire, announcing their intentions to seek the White House, and filing papers with the Federal Election Commission in Washington to establish fundraising committees.
Senator Clinton, reelected in November to a second term by a whopping 67% of her constituents, has yet to officially green light a 2008 race. But Federal Election Commission papers quietly filed with the Secretary of the Senate last week reveal how much of a fundraising edge she would have over rivals for the Democratic presidential nomination.
Mrs. Clinton ends 2006 with $13,145,637 in her campaign war chest. That's the $14,369,100 cash on hand in her Friends of Hillary account minus $1,234,463 in debts.
Because her senate campaign fund was for a federal office, the balance is legally convertible to a presidential campaign committee. Funds from political action committees, or PACs, even those set up by presidential hopefuls, are not convertible. So, for example, Illinois Senator Barack Obama's $755,000 in his senate coffers is convertible to a White House run, but the $810,000 in his Hopefund, Inc. PAC is not.
Overall, during her senate reelection campaign, Senator Clinton raised $50 million and spent $37 million, even though compared to 2000, it was a cakewalk.
Remember, six years ago, Mrs. Clinton was a First Lady untested as a candidate in her own right, dropped stakes with the former President in a white house in Westchester, was accused of "carpetbagging" into a blue state, and visited all 62 counties to listen to voters' concerns.
She won the job by outlasting two seasoned Republicans: pre-9/11-heroics Rudy, who quit the race due to his prostate cancer, and then Replacement Rick, former Congressman Lazio of Long Island, who mustered only 43% of the vote to Clinton's 55%. Still, the Giuliani-Lazio tandem outspent Clinton two to one, a combined $60 million to her $30 million.
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