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Clinton's lead is sweeping, but not clinched

Her campaign manager says as the nominee she could win over many GOP women.

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To hear Mark Penn tell it, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton is doing so well in her presidential campaign that up to 24 percent of Republican women may defect to the Democratic ticket next year.

The New York senator's top campaign strategist attributes that bombshell of a possibility, which he gets from his internal campaign polling, to the "emotional element" of potentially having the first woman presidential nominee in American history.

"That actually will be a major unexpected factor here that will throw the Republicans for a loop," Mr. Penn told reporters at a Monitor breakfast Thursday.

But, Penn stressed at the outset, there's nothing inevitable about a Clinton nomination, insisting that the campaign is taking nothing for granted. So even as he touts a stream of statistics that portray the most glowing of prospects for the former first lady, he asserts that "the race is certainly not over" and that her team is not getting complacent.

"I really feel in the campaign there's absolutely no sense of that," he says, adding that "that the campaign is working hard every day."

In national polls of Democratic primary voters, Senator Clinton now typically comes in ahead of her top opponent, Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois, by 20 to 30 percentage points or more. She's winning in nearly every demographic, Penn says, noting that she has a strong base of support among women.

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