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Is Hillary Clinton writing off Texas as hopeless territory for a Democrat? Not at all. Terry McAuliffe, her campaign chairman, was in Dallas for a gathering at Kathryn and Craig Hall’s, where he insisted that his candidate can win. What is needed now, he said, is $100 million within the next four months because the primary elections will be all but over on  February 5, the date that ballots will be cast in many critical states, probably including  California, New York,  New Jersey and Michigan.

Senator Clinton has an excellent chance in all the Kerry states, said McAuliffe, and she has a good shot at winning Arkansas, New Mexico, Iowa and Louisiana as well. If he’s right, that’s more than enough for victory.

What about the senator from Chicago, Hillary’s home town? What about Barack Obama? McAuliffe had nothing but nice words for him and urged his audience never to speak ill of another Democrat, echoing Ronald Reagan when he was leading his party out of the wilderness. Obama, McAuliffe predicted, will have plenty of money, much of it collected on the Internet from the anti-war crowd. Moreover, he explained, Obama is good for Hillary. She has to beat somebody in the primaries, he explained, to be viable in the fall.

As for Bill Clinton, McAuliffe noted that he is “the most popular person in the world” at the moment, and his wife will use him every day of her campaign, mainly, for now, at fund raisers.

Will Al Gore run? There’s a three percent chance said  McAuliffe, but it’s highly unlikely. Gore has a good life now, and there’s nothing on his calendar to suggest preparations to run for president.

The only Republican candidate on whom he was really tough was Rudy Giuliani, explaining in caustic, sarcastic social-issue language why the former mayor of New York cannot be nominated by the Republican Party. He left the impression that Giuliani is the opponent the Clinton campaign dreads the most. If so, her people, I believe, have sized up the situation correctly. Giuliani is the greatest threat.

Some say that Hillary Clinton would be too far to the left as president, but I see no evidence of that.  It’s true that fourteen years ago, when she arrived at the White House as first lady, she was in her heart, it seems to me, a Social Democrat, in the German sense. But when that didn’t pay off, she began her move to the middle and there she has resided ever since. It makes no sense to judge her now on the basis of stands taken all those years ago, including her plan for health insurance.

A Clinton-Giuliani battle would be a fight for the middle ground, and that would be a great relief in American politics. Other Democrats could offer the same thing, but thus far, there are no other front-ranking Republicans running from the center. The good thing is that nobody is taking Texas for granted any longer. We might even get some of those ugly ads next year