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Murdoch toast for Hillary bid

Washington, May 10: Rupert Murdoch is to host a political fundraiser for America’s liberal pin-up, Senator Hillary Clinton, the biggest step yet in an unlikely political reconciliation between the former enemies.

Reports yesterday suggested that Murdoch, a US citizen for 20 years, will organise the event within the next two months.

The decision marks an abrupt change for Murdoch, whose combative New York Post tabloid assailed Hillary during her successful run for the Senate in 2000.

His enormously influential Fox News television channel was once described by Hillary as part of a “vast Right-wing conspiracy”.

But with Hillary moderating many of her positions as she considers a run for the presidency in 2008 and with the Republicans taking a hammering in the polls, the time appears ripe for reconciliation.

Funds from the event would go to Hillary’s already swollen Senate re-election war chest, which has now reached '11 million.

That is far larger than any other re-election campaign fund, stoking the widespread belief that a presidential bid is planned.

A figure involved in the event told the Financial Times that Murdoch was backing her for the Senate, not the presidency: “They have a respectful and cordial relationship... I wouldn’t say it was illustrative of a close, ongoing relationship. It is not like they are dining out together.”

Even so, the decision will be seen as a major step towards an endorsement for the presidency.

While Murdoch’s outlets do not have the same clout in the US as in Britain, he is nonetheless a famous and influential figure.

The move will worry Republican strategists, who paint Hillary as a far-Left figure out of touch with the US heartland.

That will prove a difficult message to project if she has the backing of such a prominent Right-winger.

The news will also be received with hostility on the American Left, where many believe Hillary’s gradual shift to the political centre is a betrayal of her role as an uncompromising liberal.

The New York senator has repositioned herself on a range of critical issues. She voted for the Iraq war and insists troops must remain for now; she has described herself as “a praying person” and has denounced abortion as a “sad, even tragic choice to many, many women”.

Teenage pregnancy rates might be cut by young people accepting “religious and moral values”, she has suggested.

Such statements led New York’s Left-wing Village Voice to suggest that she was “trying to sound like the second coming of John Wesley”.

Hillary aides said that they ran two elections during her run for the Senate in 2000 ' one against the Republicans and one against Murdoch’s Post.

“We beat the s**** out of her,” one Post staffer said afterwards. One analysis showed that the paper ran 212 hostile opinion pieces about Hillary, 17 neutral and seven positive.

But when Hillary backed a robust military response to the September 11 attacks, the Post’s criticism moderated.

In recent years, former president Bill Clinton has also developed a close relationship with Murdoch.

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