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Hillary For President?

Most voters haven't started paying attention to the Democratic presidential race, says a poll released on Labor Day weekend — the campaign's traditional starting point.

And one person who may decide to take advantage of the fact that there is no clear leader among the Democrats: Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (R-N.Y.). Despite her repeated denials, rumors continue that she is considering a run for the White House in 2004. Craig Crawford, a columnist for Congressional Quarterly and political analyst for The Early Show, is among those who think she'll run.

According to a CBS News poll out Sunday, President Bush's approval rating is down slightly. He may be vulnerable, and the thinking among some of Clinton's supporters is that this might be the perfect time for her to run, given that two-thirds of Americans can't even name any of the candidates right now in the Democratic field. That would indicate, says Crawford, that none of those candidates "are catching on that much."

When all voters were asked whether President Bush will definitely be re-elected, 38 percent said yes, but 50 percent said they think a Democrat can win.

"That is fertile ground for Hillary," notes Crawford. "Her staff and advisers and friends are buzzing about this. They really are. There are a lot of folks in Washington who swear she will not run and, of course, she swears she will not run. But there's so much activity on the part of her staff, campaign Web sites, fund-raising operations, campaign meetings coming up."

Crawford also says there is talk of a trip by Clinton to Iowa in the fall, "which is the critical early test first voting state in the presidential contest, come January."

Reports in the New York newspapers also have former governor Mario Cuomo, a Democratic party leader, urging Clinton to run. But, as Crawford points out, she does not have to make a decision, if she wants to be in the New Hampshire primary, until Nov. 21, which is the filing deadline for that primary.

Crawford says that another reason for "Hillary buzz" is the fact that there is some concern among Democratic leadership that if Howard Dean were to get the presidential nomination, he would not be electable.

"There's a real 'anybody but Dean' movement forming, particularly in Washington," Crawford explains. "There's big concern he's another George McGovern who famously lost everything -- I think all but one state -- in 1972 to Richard Nixon."

Joe Lieberman, Dick Gephardt and Dean topped the field in the poll, with relatively low numbers that suggest the race remains wide open.

Lieberman, Gephardt and Dean were the only three in double digits in support from registered Democrats. Lieberman, a Connecticut senator, had the backing of 14 percent; Gephardt, a Missouri congressman, was backed by 11 percent; and Dean, former governor of Vermont was at 10 percent. Other candidates were in single digits.

John Kerry, a Massachusetts senator, was at 5 percent after being in double digits in national polls most of the year. Kerry will try to spark his campaign this week with the formal announcement of his candidacy.

Al Sharpton had 5 percent; Bob Graham, a senator from Florida was at 4 percent; John Edwards, a senator from North Carolina, had 2 percent; Carol Moseley Braun was at 2 percent; and Dennis Kucinich, an Ohio congressman, had 0 percent.

Voters may not know much about the candidates because few are paying attention. Just 15 percent of registered voters say they are paying a lot of attention to the 2004 Presidential campaign. More Democratic voters (19 percent) than Republicans (13 percent) are paying a lot of attention. This lack of attention is not unusual; at about the same point in 1999, just 13 percent of voters were paying a lot of attention to Campaign 2000.

Four in 10 Democratic voters said they were satisfied with the current field of nine candidates, while half said they would like more choices.

The poll of 775 registered voters was taken Aug. 26-28 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points, larger for subgroups like Democratic voters.

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