Hillary Clinton's political shift to the right reached new territory this week as she warmly praised George Bush at a speech in Washington and defended her decision to let Rupert Murdoch sponsor a fundraising event on her behalf.
On the day that a New York Times poll found Mr Bush's approval ratings at an all-time low of 31%, the leading contender for the Democratic party's 2008 presidential nomination praised the US president's "charm and charisma".
Asked to name a good thing about Mr Bush, Ms Clinton, a New York senator, said she had been "very grateful to him for his support for New York" after the attacks on September 11 2001. Though the two had had "many disagreements" he had been "very willing to talk".
She added: "He's been affable." When she asked him for help for New York "he immediately said yes" (though the president has been accused by other politicians of falling far short of his promised $20bn, or £10.7bn, in aid and tax breaks).
Ms Clinton's strategic refashioning is fast rendering her unrecognisable from the first lady who, eight years ago, accused a "vast rightwing conspiracy" of plotting against her husband, Bill Clinton. Mr Murdoch's Fox News channel has long been one of her most strident critics, but she said yesterday of the media mogul: "He's my constituent, and I'm very gratified that he thinks I'm doing a good job."
The fundraising will ostensibly be for Ms Clinton's senate re-election campaign, but she is so far ahead in that contest as not to need the support of the only Murdoch forum that could make much of a difference, the tabloid New York Post.
Her courting of Mr Murdoch is part of a grander strategy, mirrored by statements designed to portray her as no less pugilistic on terrorism than Mr Bush. "This shows her to be a consensus-builder, someone who's not polarising," Hank Sheinkopf, a Democratic party consultant, said. "The rightwing take on her has always been that she's polarising. Certainly, there will be people on the left that may not like this relationship [with Mr Murdoch] but the fact that she could forge it speaks well of her ability to build consensus ... To be president, you've got to win the support of white Catholic men in the midwest. They don't tolerate shrieking and they don't tolerate polarisers."
But Ms Clinton's efforts risk alienating those who argue that a "Republican-lite" platform cannot draw enough support. "Afraid to offend, she has limited her policy proposals to minor, symbolic issues ... meanwhile, she remains behind the curve or downright incoherent on pressing issues such as the war in Iraq," the blogger Markos Moulitsas wrote in the Washington Post at the weekend.
Ms Clinton's most likely Republican challenger, Senator John McCain, is working vigorously, booked to speak at the Christian fundamentalist Liberty University, and the liberal New School in New York. Another possibility was raised yesterday as Mr Bush said his brother Jeb, Florida's governor, would make "a great president". Jeb Bush has said he would not run, but the president said: "I truly don't think he knows."
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