U.S. Senator and former First Lady Hillary Clinton's book about her years in the White House has quickly become a best-seller and is causing a bit of a stir among Democratic Party political activists. Senator Clinton's appearances at bookstores to autograph copies of her memoir are drawing large crowds that are mostly friendly but have a few detractors as well.
Outside a bookstore on Capitol Hill in Washington, the lines snake around the block with hundreds eager for an autograph and a brief exchange with Senator Clinton.
A beaming Lisa Sherrod has just emerged from the bookstore with her prize, an autographed copy of Mrs. Clinton's book, Living History. "It was wonderful. She was energetic and very friendly. She looks wonderful and I am very excited about reading this book. My 87-year-old grandmother started reading it last night," she says.
Among those waiting patiently in line for her turn is Marilyn Markowitz of Washington. She sees Hillary Clinton as a role model for American women. I am here to support Hillary Clinton and also to buy her book for my mom because I think that she is an example for us women as to how far you can go if you use your smarts," she says.
Actually, Marilyn Markowitz believes Hillary Clinton can go a lot farther, all the way to the White House one day. In fact, she is unimpressed with the nine Democrats now running for president and would like Senator Clinton to join the Democratic field for 2004. "They are kind of into the mediocrity, I mean, I don't even distinguish between their faces. But hers stands out," she says.
In television interviews given in conjunction with the release of the book, Mrs. Clinton has repeatedly said she has no intention at this time of running for president, either next year or in the future. She told NBC's Today program that she is confident that the Democrats will nominate a strong challenger to take on President Bush in 2004. "Well, it is not going to happen. It is a total hypothetical and I have said I am not running, so that is the answer. But you know, we have very good [Democratic presidential] candidates," she said.
To be sure, the prospect of a Hillary Clinton campaign for president does not thrill everyone. Even at her book signings, she is dogged by small groups of conservative protesters eager to douse any presidential ambitions she may have. "Ladies and gentlemen, in just a few minutes, you too will be able to witness the Hillary Clinton freak show. Live and in person, the human doormat herself! For the modest price of just $28 you can marvel as the smartest woman in the world plays dumb for suckers like you," says Christin Taylor, with a conservative group called Free Republic. "We don't like Hillary. We think she is telling a lot of lies in her book and we are here to try to set the record straight some and have some fun while doing it," she says.
A new poll by USA Today and the Gallup organization suggests Mrs. Clinton's image has improved since the release of her book. The new poll found 53 percent of those surveyed had a favorable view of Mrs. Clinton, up from 43 percent just two weeks ago.
But the polls and many political experts suggest Mrs. Clinton remains a polarizing political figure, wildly popular with liberal Democrats but a favorite target for conservative Republicans.
Even some of her supporters concede she will have to mend a few political fences if she hopes to one day win the presidency. Joanna Gabryszewski is a supporter who says she would like to work in a Hillary Clinton presidential campaign one day. But she says the Senator will have to win over some of her critics if she hopes to succeed. "There is a little bit of that. She is going to have to get over the hump on that and I am not sure how," she says. "She has got a little bit of a battle uphill before she can get enough people on her bandwagon [to get elected president]."
But many of her supporters brush those concerns aside and are eager for another Clinton in the White House. Lisa Sherrod says she believes Mrs. Clinton should set her sights on the 2008 presidential election. "Yes! Definitely in 2008. I think she needs to put her time in the Senate, get that experience and the notoriety and it is all hers," she says.
The latest USA Today-Gallup poll suggests the public is sharply split on a possible Hillary Clinton run in 2008. Forty-two percent of those surveyed said they would be either very likely or somewhat likely to support her. But 56 percent said it was either not very likely or not likely at all that they would vote for her.
But before Mrs. Clinton can even consider running in 2008, she might first seek to get re-elected to the Senate from New York. She faces that test in 2006.