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Hillary Clinton: Could her past derail White House bid? (+video)

Hillary Clinton will host a fundraiser for family friend Terry McAuliffe, who's running for governor of Virginia. But he ties her to a past that she might be wary of embracing.

By Staff writer / August 11, 2013

President Obama has lunch with former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on the patio outside the Oval Office late last month. Ms. Clinton is seen as a front-runner for the office in 2016.

Chuck Kennedy/White House Photo

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So former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton will hold a fundraiser for Virginia gubernatorial candidate and close family friend Terry McAuliffe, according to the McAuliffe campaign.

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Staff writer

Mark is deputy national news editor for the Monitor.

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That makes sense. Mr. McAuliffe has been in the Clintons' political and personal inner circle for years now. He acted as their go-to fundraiser during the Clinton presidency and ran Ms. Clinton's 2008 presidential campaign. These days, he's one of Mr. Clinton's golfing buddies, and Mr. Clinton gave $100,000 to his campaign. For the Clintons, opening up their Washington home to raise money for McAuliffe, who's locked in a tight race, seems like a no-brainer.

But for Ms. Clinton, it is not without political risks.

These days, Clinton's two terms as first lady seem almost like the Mesozoic. The Hillary Clinton who tops every poll of potential Democratic nominees for president in 2016 is the product of a political rebirth – eight years in the Senate, a historic presidential primary fight with Barack Obama in 2008, and four years as secretary of State. This Hillary has so eclipsed the Hillary of universal health care, Whitewater, and the Monica Lewinsky scandal that the latter seems a fossil – a curious relic of a time long gone, buried under the sediment of recent history.

But be sure, Republicans are already digging, and McAuliffe highlights the potential perils of Clinton's past.

McAuliffe, after all, was not universally loved as a Clinton fundraiser. While that might be a badge of honor for the best fundraisers, it doesn't make for sterling reputations. Even Mr. Clinton has joked about his friend. “Absolutely, I would buy a new car from Terry. But a used car? I am not so sure about a used car,” he told The New York Times last year.

That reputation was not enhanced earlier this month when the Securities and Exchange Commission revealed it was investigating an electric car company founded by McAuliffe, GreenTech Automotive, to see if it properly applied a federal program that offers permanent residency to foreign investors. For good measure, the SEC is also investigating Gulf Coast Funds Management, which seeks investors in the company and is run by Anthony Rodham, Ms. Clinton's brother.

As Ms. Clinton surely knows, holding a fundraiser on Sept. 30, 2013, for a good friend is not going to derail any 2016 presidential aspirations. But like the New York City mayor's race, it indicates a potential weak point for Clinton going forward.

In New York, a close Clinton adviser, Huma Abedin, has publicly backed her husband, Anthony Weiner, who has refused to drop out of the election despite his admission that he was still engaged in sexually explicit online chats with other women a year ago. The story has drawn uncomfortable parallels to the Clinton saga, when Ms. Clinton stood by her husband after the Monica Lewinsky scandal broke.

That, too, will surely pass well before 2016, but it shows how Republicans could counter Clinton if she runs for president.

The statesman who spawned Internet memes with her sunglasses and Blackberry has become broadly respected.

The first lady who went to Capitol Hill to do battle with "Harry and Louise" was among the most polarizing figures in the American political landscape.

Between now and 2016, Clinton will receive any number of requests from friends and political allies to sprinkle her fairy dust on their campaigns or causes. McAuliffe and Ms. Abedin are at least a reminder that she will need to choose wisely.

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