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Clinton remains a strong performer on the stump who has nonetheless been known to misread a crowd sometimes as thoroughly as her husband was known to work one. At a glitzy Kennedy Center event on AIDS last fall, she harangued an audience already deeply engaged with the epidemic with an awkward demand that they do even more. After an almost flawless 2005, when she emerged as the party's most sought-after spokesman, she has seemed to stumble a bit this year. She attracted a little more attention than she intended when she likened the G.O.P.-controlled House of Representatives to a plantation. Her advisers say that did not hurt her in the polls.
If she runs for President, Clinton will bring to the race more assets and experience than almost anyone who has never run before--and the kind of liabilities that would send other politicians into permanent rehab. Which may explain why a Clinton ally, aware of all her pluses and minuses, last week struck a fatalistic chord about a 2008 race. "Let's just get it on," he said.