Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton said Monday she won’t make a decision about running for president until after the first of the year.

During a visit to an aircraft maintenance facility at the former Griffiss Air Base, Clinton confirmed she is talking to people in New York and across the country about a possible run for president in 2008. It was the first time Clinton publicly confirmed what her aides and fellow Democrats have been saying about a possible presidential run.

"I’m talking to people who have opinions about what our country needs to do going forward and whether or not I make any decisions, I can’t really confront until after the first of the year," Clinton said.

The former first lady said she had not yet decided whether to form a presidential exploratory committee, but that technical requirements of federal election law might require her to do so if she continues to consider a presidential run.

"I’m certainly interested in what happens to our country," she said when asked if she was interested in being president. "I’m looking at where our country is, where I would like to see it go, listening to people who think I might make a contribution to that."

Asked if she would make a good president, Clinton said, "obviously if I make a decision to pursue it, that would be one of the conclusions I reach."

Regarding Illinois Sen. Barack Obama, a possible rival for the Democratic nomination, Clinton said the warm reception Obama has been getting around the country, including a stop in New Hampshire on Sunday, is "terrific."

Clinton, however, wouldn’t say whether she thought Obama should run for president.

"That’s going to be up to everybody to make a decision," she said. Asked if Obama would make a good president, Clinton chuckled.

"We just have to take one day at a time right now," she said. "I’m just excited there’s a lot of enthusiasm for Democrats around the country."

Clinton was in Rome for the announcement that the airline JetBlue will begin sending 20 percent of its planes to a maintenance facility located on the former air base.


Gov. Mitt Romney paid $500 to Elizabeth Smart, the Utah teen who survived a kidnapping by a religious zealot, after she played harp at one of his fundraisers, according to a campaign finance report that highlights his preparations for a likely presidential run.

Smart, a fellow Mormon who was freed in 2003 after a nine-month abduction, received the money in April, according to the 166-page report, which outlines donations and expenditures through Nov. 27 for Romney’s Commonwealth PAC. Romney has been using the political action committee to travel and build chits for a campaign, which he is expected to announce early next year.

The Massachusetts Republican visited California on Monday on another PAC-financed trip.

"Certainly, I would support him, but I would not read anything into it," Edward Smart, Elizabeth’s father, said of the harp performance during a telephone interview. "One of the people on his staff called her up and asked her if she would come and play."

Romney reported raising $2.7 million and spending $2.2 million in his federal PAC during the past two years. He also took advantage of his status as a nonfederal officeholder to set up affiliated committees in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, Michigan and Alabama, allowing him to shower money on local candidates in those key electoral states.

Collectively, the state and federal PACs raised $8.75 million and gave away $1.3 million.


Presidential candidate Tom Vilsack said Monday that while he’s a pro-choice Democrat, members of his party need to promote life by encouraging adoption and providing programs for prenatal care and family planning.

"When you phrase it that way, you send a message to the life community that you respect but don’t necessarily always agree with their position. And you begin to have a conversation about issues where there might be consensus as opposed to division," said the Iowa governor, who was adopted.

Vilsack spoke to a group of about 100 Democrats in Florida, a critical swing state in the election.

He railed against the federal deficit and debt.

"The tax that we ought to be reducing … is the birth tax, that’s what I call the deficit and the debt," he said. "Every single youngster born today in this community and across this great land is receiving a bill from Uncle George and Uncle Dick for about $30,000. It is going to compromise their future."

Vilsack also planned to attend private fundraisers in Orlando and Miami.


Israel and the world are threatened by a "possibly deranged and surely dangerous regime" in Iran, White House hopeful Sen. John McCain told a Jewish audience.

As the world’s "chief state sponsor of international terrorism," Iran defines itself by its hostility to the Jewish state and its chief ally, the United States, the Arizona Republican said in a speech for a Hanukkah dinner at Yeshiva University on Sunday.

He noted that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has called the Holocaust a "myth," urged that Israel be "wiped off the map" and defied international demands and incentives to end a drive to gain nuclear weapons capability.

"It is simply tragic that millennia of proud Persian history have culminated in a government that today cannot be counted among the world’s most civilized nations," McCain said.

The former Vietnam prisoner of war, who tried and failed to gain the GOP presidential nomination in 2000, is considered the probable front-runner for his party’s 2008 nomination.

McCain made his speech during visit to the home turf of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton and ex-Mayor Rudy Giuliani, potential rivals in the 2008 presidential race

Ahmadinejad has denied that Iran seeks to build weapons, saying its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes and the country will not give up its right under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty to enrich uranium and produce nuclear fuel. The United States and many European nations believe Iran’s enrichment process is aimed at producing weapons.


Sen. Edward M. Kennedy isn’t waiting much longer for fellow Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry to decide whether he will again seek the presidency — not that Kennedy is ready to abandon Kerry for someone else.

Kennedy told the Boston Globe on Monday that he had assumed Kerry would reach a decision by early 2007. Kerry, however, has yet to set a specific deadline for an announcement.

Even though Kennedy has said he would support another run by Kerry, the senior senator from the Bay State said Monday that he would not wait indefinitely for Kerry to make up his mind and has informed Kerry that he may get behind another Democrat for president.

Kennedy had kind words for two Democratic hopefuls, Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York and Barack Obama of Illinois, whom he called "formidable figures" connecting with rank-and-file Democrats.

David Wade, a Kerry spokesman, told the Globe that Kerry realizes that he must decide soon.

Kerry delayed a decision about a 2008 race after he was widely criticized for what he called a "botched joke" aimed at President Bush and his handling of the Iraq war, a comment shortly before the November elections that Republicans deemed an insult to U.S. troops.


Associated Press writers Glen Johnson in Boston, Brendan Farrington in West Palm Beach, Fla., and Richard Pyle in New York contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2006 The Associated Press

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