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Hillary's deadlocked-convention 'healing' plan

WASHINGTON – Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., may not enter the primaries, but she has not given up hope of being the Democratic presidential nominee in 2004, reports Newsweek.

Asked if she plans to compete for the nomination, one of her closest friends and advisers reportedly said: “That depends on what you mean by ‘get into the race.'”

Sen. Hillary Clinton, D.-N.Y.

“The scenario, as sketched by this hard-boiled insider, calls for Clinton to make an entrance as healer and unifier at the end of the primary season in May or June in the unlikely – but not impossible – event that none of the existing contenders has amassed a majority of the convention delegates,” reports Newsweek.

“You’d have to have Howard Dean not wrapping it up, and being an angry, wounded front runner,” this adviser said. “You’d have to have two of the other challengers tearing each other apart in primary after primary. Then Hillary could come in, well in advance of the convention, and say, ‘Look, somebody has to save the party.'”

Under party rules, reports the news weekly, delegates are bound to vote at the convention for the candidate under whose banner they were elected in the primaries – but only on the first ballot. Party and elected officials – the so-called super-delegates – are free to shift allegiance, and could form an instant core of Clinton support.

Newsweek says if the campaign of Sen. Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., fades, she might recruit his top pros – media handler Mandy Grunwald and pollster Mark Penn.

Clinton was the star attraction at last Saturday’s Jefferson-Jackson Day Dinner in Iowa, where the first-in-the-nation caucuses will be held next January.

“It was set up to make her the star,” groused one campaign manager. She would have been anyway, another Clinton insider said. “She still puts all the others in the shade and they all know it. She has the star power and they don’t. Here’s the way things stack up now,” he said.

Former President Clinton’s recent public statements suggest he’s been recruiting his wife to challenge President Bush in 2004.

“That’s really a decision for her to make,” he said earlier this fall, suggesting the decision has yet to be made despite the senator’s repeated insistence she would fill out her term in New York.

Time magazine reports Clinton has been urging his wife to get into the race and has been trying to figure out a way for her to be able to rescind her past comments.