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   Hillary write-in campaign kicks off

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12/13/2003 12:00 am

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Entered 12/13/2003, Updated 12/13/2003

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TV ads urging New Hampshire voters to write in Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's name have hit the airwaves - seeking to pump up speculation she'll run for president, despite her steadfast denials. The 30-second commercials are the brainchild of Florida activist/gadfly Bob Kunst, who is waging a passionate guerrilla-style grassroots effort urging Democrats to draft the former first lady for the top of the 2004 ticket. ``The Democratic Party is on a suicide mission with Howard Dean,'' said Kunst, 61. ``We're shaking every rafter. We want to make people as crazy as possible about her. Her time is now or never.'' ``Hillary is the strongest Democrat who can beat Bush,'' a narrator intones in the spots, which Kunst said were part of a modest $25,000 ad buy last week in the leadoff primary state. ``This is not about her, it's about saving the Democratic Party,'' said Kunst. ``We don't see her as a candidate for sainthood, but she makes more sense than the other Democrats running.'' ``We tell people that they have to be part of a grassroots effort to convince her to run,'' said Kunst, whose aim is a 50-state draft organization. ``Why would she do it otherwise?'' A competing Web site, VoteHillary.org, based in Virginia, also is seeking to prod Clinton, whom polls consistently show to be the nation's most popular Democrat and strongest Bush challenger, into the race. Most political professionals believe she will wait until 2008 to launch a White House bid. But some anxious Democrats like Kunst - disenchanted with the current presidential field and fearful Dean will be a disaster against President Bush - are eager to push her into the race. Clinton, deliberately or not, has fed such speculation with several high-profile moves. Most analysts believe she is doing so not for a White House run next year, but to maximize her political clout and to boost her fund-raising totals with an eye toward 2008. Clinton, insisting she will serve out her Senate term ending in 2006, has adamantly denied she would run for president or vice president in 2004.


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